Accused murderer was emotional, using drugs heavily on day of shooting, friend testifies

Jacob Beson testified Thursday that in 2018 he owed money to Vincent Bélanger-Dompierre, who was shot by Vincent Ward in April 2018, and a man he knew only as 'Tino.' (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)
Jacob Beson testified Thursday that in 2018 he owed money to Vincent Bélanger-Dompierre, who was shot by Vincent Ward in April 2018, and a man he knew only as 'Tino.' (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)

Vincent Ward was emotionally volatile and using drugs heavily the day he shot Vincent Bélanger-Dompierre in Labrador City, a friend of Ward's testified Thursday.

Ward is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Bélanger-Dompierre on April 25 or 26, 2018, in Labrador City, but his defence lawyer says it was an act of self-defence.

Jacob Beson, testifying Thursday at Ward's trial in Supreme Court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said he owed money to Bélanger-Dompierre and a man he knew only as "Tino" — identified earlier in the trial as Bélanger-Dompierre's name for Martin Audet.

Audet testified earlier this week that he was not involved in selling drugs, but Beson said both he and Bélanger-Dompierre would give him drugs to sell and errands to run.

On April 25, 2018, Beson said, he was in and out of Bélanger-Dompierre's Pine Avenue home multiple times, starting in the morning when Ward sent him a message that said he was "f—ed up" and hadn't slept for a few days.

Ward owed $30K, testifies witness

When Beson arrived at the Pine Avenue home to see Ward, Bélanger-Dompierre gave him speed to take before sending him on an errand. Beson said Ward didn't seem well but everyone appeared to be getting along. When he returned, Beson said he felt sick himself — like he was "overdosing," he said in his most recent statement to police, on Thursday before his testimony.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

When he returned to the Pine Avenue home, Beson said, he saw Audet mixing cocaine and speed in a blender, Ward taking cocaine, and a woman he didn't know who gave him $600 to get prepaid phones.

Beson said because he felt sick, he had a nap and then, when he went to Walmart, sent a friend into the store for him to get the phones. When Beson dropped off the phones at Pine Avenue in the mid-afternoon, he testified, a man he knew only as "Andy" was cleaning an assault-style rifle in the living room.

At that point, Beson testified, Ward seemed to be having a hard time breathing due to his drug use. Beson said he lent his car to Ward while he went home to sleep some more. Ward picked him back up at 9 p.m. and the two drove to a tattoo shop, with Ward going inside.

Submitted photograph
Submitted photograph

Beson said he heard Ward and the shop owner, Scott Pynn, shouting at each other. The two men returned to Beson's car, he testified, and Pynn told Beson to take Ward home. When the two came to the vehicle, Beson said, Pynn told him to take Ward home. Beson said he then learned Ward owed about $30,000 to Bélanger-Dompierre and Audet..

After getting back in the car, Beson said, Ward told him, "They are threatening to kill my kids and my family because I owe money."

As they drove, Beson testified, Ward seemed emotionally aggressive but also fearful. When they stopped at an intersection next to the police station, Beson said, he suggested Ward go to the police, telling him, "Why don't you just narc him out? Why don't you just go to the cops?"

Submitted photograph
Submitted photograph

Instead, Ward said he wanted to go to his house, Beson said, where Ward picked up some items, and a short time later the two were drove back to Pine Avenue. Ward went inside, and what happened after that is at the heart of the trial.

Crown prosecutors are arguing Ward shot Bélanger-Dompierre unprovoked, while defence counsel say it was a lawful act of self-defence.

Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy questioned Beson's testimony, noting his account of events has changed throughout the investigation, including in his statement to police on Thursday, and pointing to Beson's own acknowledgement that his drug use at the time could have affected his memory.

Gruchy noted that in Beson's first statement to police, in April 2018, Beson said he didn't go into the Pine Avenue house that day. Gruchy asked Beson if he lied to the police under oath.

"Yes and I'm correcting that," Beson said.

Officers testify shooting victim was holding a gun

Two Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, Sgt. Shawn Dyke and Const. Shane Lahey, also testified this week,

Dyke said the RNC were called at 2:58 a.m. on April 26, 2018, to the Pine Avenue home. Dyke and another officer saw Ward outside the home without a coat on in the cold weather so they invited him into the back of the cruiser.

Dyke said Ward was talkative and coherent but with "no emotion on his face." Dyke and Lahey went into the home through an open side door and found Bélanger-Dompierre's body inside the house, as well as firearms, drugs and large quantities of cash.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Bélanger-Dompierre's fingers were holding the barrel of a gun facing away from him and another gun was near his feet, Dyke testified. A third gun was in the basement, Dyke said.

Ward was taken to the police detachment for questioning.

"I knew he was under the influence of something," Dyke testified, adding it didn't appear to be alcohol.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday and last another two to three weeks.

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