The underbelly of the drug scene in Lloydminster, Alta., is on full display at a first-degree murder trial which began in Edmonton this week.
Christopher Hermkens and Mark Moran are charged with killing Raymond Dumont in April 2019. The 32-year-old was found dead behind the wheel of his vehicle, killed by numerous gunshots.
Hermkens is being tried alone because Moran's defence lawyer had a medical issue that prevented him from appearing in court in person. Moran's trial will be held at a later date.
On the first day of the trial, prosecutor Dallas Sopko painted a vivid picture outlining the Crown's theory.
"This case is about an ongoing feud between two members of the Lloydminster drug subculture," Sopko said. "A feud between Steven Thorne, an unindicted co-conspirator, and the deceased, Ray Dumont."
Sopko said Dumont, also known as "Ray Ray," had a lot of enemies.
While Dumont was in jail, his girlfriend Chelsey Hart formed a relationship with Thorne, a local drug dealer known as "Crazy."
According to the Crown, Dumont was released from custody just a few days before his death and made his anger toward Thorne well-known.
The Crown theorizes that Thorne and his associates decided it would be safer to sell drugs in Lloydminster without competition from Dumont.
"I expect the evidence will establish that Crazy, along with his associates ... made a business decision to get rid of Ray," Sopko told the court.
"Rather than kill Ray themselves, they hired the accused, Christopher Hermkens, known as 'Cage' to come and do the job for them."
The Crown said Hermkens was motivated by the $100,000 bounty put on Dumont's head as he wanted to buy his new girlfriend a luxury car.
"The stage was set," Sopko said. "A conspiracy was formed and a contract was made."
The Crown says Hermkens, who lived in Edmonton, prepared for the job by sanding and painting a handgun and assault-style rifle.
When Hermkens got to Lloydminster, he enlisted the help of his co-accused, Mark Moran, because Moran knew the target and he didn't, Sopko said.
"Moran could also confirm the identity of Ray for Cage, so that he didn't accidentally kill the wrong guy," he said.
A circumstantial case
Moran and Hermkens set out early in the evening on Apr. 27, 2019, in two stolen vehicles.
The Crown said Moran was armed with the handgun and Hermkens had the assault-style rifle.
They communicated by walkie-talkies.
Dumont and his girlfriend were driving home and only a few metres from their front door when Moran drove up beside Dumont's vehicle.
Dumont's girlfriend heard the words, "Is this him?" She saw Moran nod, then a shadow appeared outside her passenger door.
The person armed with the assault-style rifle fired multiple rounds into Dumont's vehicle.
"Ray was shot in the head as well as in other parts of his body and died immediately," Sopko said. "One of the bullets passed through the car and struck Moran in the leg."
Dumont's vehicle careened out of control and crashed into a nearby school.
RCMP found Dumont slumped over the steering wheel. His girlfriend had been injured by shrapnel. Officers later found 12 spent rifle casings.
Moran fled the scene, but later sought medical attention.
The Crown alleges that Hermkens drove to a rural area near Sherwood Park and torched the car to destroy evidence.
Hermkens was arrested in Calgary two weeks after the murder. The Crown said he was only paid $5,000, not the $100,000 promised.
Sopko admits it is a circumstantial case and the central issue is the identity of Dumont's killer.
Defence lawyer Paul Moreau told the judge the Crown's theory "just doesn't make any sense."
"I won't be asserting Mr. Hermkens is citizen of the year," Moreau said. "He's deeply immersed in the drug subculture and he's spent a lot of time in prison with those people for various things; however, that doesn't make him guilty of murder or anything else."
The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.