Charlie sentenced on Bjornson murder

·2 min read

A final loose end to a grisly, drug-related murder of a Vanderhoof man eight years ago was tied up last week when a Nak'azdli man was sentenced to a further seven years and three months in a federal penitentiary.

In all, James David Junior Charlie was sentenced to 18 years less credit of 10 years and nine months for time served prior to sentencing. This comes after he pleaded guilty in September 2020 to manslaughter in the January 2012 death of Fribjon Bjornson.

Following a five-week trial at the Prince George courthouse, a jury found Charlie guilty in October 2017 of first-degree murder.

But in January, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial. A three-justice panel found the judge overseeing the trial failed to properly explain to the jury the law on liability for murder.

The sentencing came in the form of a joint submission presented by Crown and defence counsels to B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes during a hearing at the Prince George courthouse.

Friends and family of both Bjornson and Charlie were in the gallery to take in the proceedings.

Bjornson, a father of two young children who had long struggled with drug addiction, was reported missing by his mother on Jan. 21, 2012.

His truck was discovered abandoned at an apartment complex on the Nak’azdli Reserve just outside Fort St. James on Jan. 23, 2012. About a week later police found his severed head wrapped in a comforter in the basement of a home on the shore of Stuart Lake.

Police searched another residence and found a significant amount of blood that was later determined to be Bjornson’s.

Charlie and two other men, Wesley Duncan and Jesse Bird, were living in the home and selling drugs from it. A so-called Mr. Big sting, where undercover police pose as high-level criminals coax confessions out of the suspects, was used to bring the three to justice.

Evidence presented at the trial indicated Duncan and Bird beat and strangled Bjornson to death in the basement of the home while Charlie took off on a joy ride in Bjornson's pickup truck.

Duncan and Bird earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced in June 2018 to life without parole for at least 15 years after they pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Charlie's sister, Theresa, who had been in custody for 3 1/2 years, was sentenced to time served on a count of indignity to a dead body.

James Charlie was also sentenced last week to a concurrent term of two years in jail for participating in a January 2020 attack on another inmate at Kent maximum security prison in Agassiz.

- with files from Vancouver Sun

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen