An Edmonton man who confessed during a police undercover operation to murdering a trucker pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder.
Richard Rockey, originally charged with first-degree murder, has been given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 12 years.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Brian Burrows was told Rockey and two associates planned in May 2015 to rob a truck driver in the middle of the night.
Randy Evans of Olds, Alta., was the owner and operator of a transport truck who made regular trips between Edmonton and Calgary.
Evans parked his truck on 151st Street south of 111th Avenue so he could sleep in the cab while the detached trailer was being loaded for a return trip to Calgary.
At 1:40 a.m., Evans was asleep when one of the would-be thieves broke in. Rockey and the other man got into the cab and attacked Evans. The 54-year-old was able to fight them off and got them out of the truck. He started the engine and began driving away.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Rockey mounted the running board on the driver's side of the vehicle. He broke the driver's side window and struck Evans in the head with a pipe.
Evans pulled on the truck's air horn lever as Rockey pulled out a knife and slashed Evans' right arm before stabbing him in the centre of the chest, perforating his heart.
"The wound from Evans' chest sprayed blood over the inside of the truck's cab," the court document states.
Rockey drove away from the scene but crashed his vehicle a few blocks away and got away on foot.
Despite being stabbed in the chest, Evans managed to drive to the nearby Aurora Motel. He banged on the manager's door for help, then collapsed. He was rushed to hospital where surgeons tried unsuccessfully to save his life. Evans died the next day after suffering multiple heart attacks.
Mr. Big sting
It took three years for Edmonton police to arrest Rockey with the assistance of Vancouver police, following an undercover operation.
"Mr. Evans was killed three years before a confession was provided to undercover officers," prosecutor Marissa Tordoff told Burrows. "During the operation, he referred several times to the murder he committed."
Rockey's final confession was made to an undercover officer posing as a crime boss, known as Mr. Big, Tordoff said.
Rockey told Mr. Big his adrenaline kicked in when Evans began to drive away, she said.
"Fight or flight," Rockey told the undercover officer. "If it comes down to you or me, I'll send flowers."
The prosecutor suggested Rockey showed little remorse for the attempted robbery and stabbing.
"He told them what disturbed him was the idea of getting caught," Tordoff said.
In a victim impact statement, Betty Evans wrote about her deep faith and the pain of losing her son. She also had a message for the man who killed her son.
"We can forgive you because we love and worship a God who forgives and has forgiven us," Betty Evans wrote. "I want you to know God will forgive you too if you ask him."
Burrows said he was especially moved by Evans' willingness to forgive.
"I'm impressed by her faith and her generosity ... that it is appropriate to forgive you," Burrows said. "That would be very difficult for most parents to do."
Defence lawyer Raymond Dieno called the victim impact statements "heartbreaking".
"It's not lost on me and it's not lost on Mr. Rockey," Dieno said.
The defence lawyer said his 49-year old client was born to a mother in Salmon Arm, B.C., who was a "terrible drunk" who "abused him almost daily."
At age 13, Rockey moved to Oregon to get away from his mother and live with his father. But Dieno said that didn't work out and Rockey spent the next five years in Oregon group homes where he continued to be physically abused.
"His criminal record shows he lived a criminal lifestyle," Dieno said. "He was addicted to drugs. He had some health issues as a result of his drug use and he was impoverished."
Rockey and his two associates were told by their drug pusher, who rented them space to live in, to go out and get some money. That led to the plan to rob Evans.
"He's remorseful for what he's done, but he knows any words he says will not offer comfort to the family," Dieno said. "It was a senseless death. He knows it."
The defence lawyer said Rockey had suffered two heart attacks before he was taken into custody and he's had two more since his arrest.
"He may die in prison," Dieno said. "Lord knows his health is not good."
The Crown and defence made a joint submission for a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 12 years which was accepted by the judge without hesitation.
"The bottom line is that I am very confidently satisfied that the joint submission that has been made is a just and fit resolution of this matter," Burrows said.