Jail time unlikely for man who hid, disposed of roommate’s dead body

·4 min read

A Kamloops man is likely to avoid jail time, after he said he panicked when he found his roommate dead in his apartment before hiding his body and disposing of it near a dumpster.

Shane Brownlee, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of interference with a dead body in a Kamloops courtroom on Thursday. His roommate, David Boltwood, 65, was found dead and rolled up in a carpet behind 170 Carson Cresc. in North Kamloops on Nov. 29, 2019. Police initially suspected a homicide, but an autopsy later determined Boltwood died of natural causes.

On Thursday, court heard the two men met about a month earlier and Brownlee invited Boltwood, who was homeless and had health issues, to live with him at his 170 Carson Cresc. home.

According to an agreed upon statement of facts, Boltwood died sometime after Nov. 7, when Brownlee was served an eviction notice. About a week later, two people cleaning a common area in the building noticed a foul smell around Brownlee’s apartment unit. A photo taken by the building manager on Nov. 19, as part of the eviction process, showed a zebra-patterned carpet rolled up in one of the bedrooms. Unbeknownst at the time, it contained Boltwood’s decaying body.

Sometime after Nov. 19, Brownlee moved Boltwood’s body, contained in the rug, to a storage locker across the hall. Many witnesses also reported smelling a strong odour coming from that part of the building.

On Nov. 23, Brownlee asked a 15-year-old boy who lived in the area to help him move out of his apartment and the two moved a large cardboard box containing the zebra-print carpet outside to the building’s dumpster. It was caught on security camera footage.

Five days later, two passersby noticed the concealed body and reported it to police.

After police issued a press release about the discovery, the teenager called to report he had unknowingly aided Brownlee in disposing of a body. He also told police Brownlee poured Febreeze on the box, telling him it contained urine soaked blankets.

Boltwood’s autopsy, conducted on Dec. 3, 2019, revealed he died of complications with emphysema. Bed sores on his body indicated he was immobile before his death, but there were no other physical signs of injury.

The day before Boltwood’s body was found, Brownlee stole his girlfriend’s car, He was later arrested in Jasper, Alta.

In his statement to police, Brownlee said he panicked when he came home from grocery shopping to find Boltwood deceased and was adamant he did not murder him. Asked by police why he did not call for help when he found the body, Brownlee said he suffered from anxiety and did not handle death well.

He was formally charged with the offence last July.

Crown prosecutor Camille Cook suggested a two-year conditional sentence order and up to three years of probation, meaning Brownlee would serve up to five years in the community on conditions that include: a curfew, refraining from using drugs and alcohol, having no contact with the teen, attending counselling and completion of 100 hours of community service.

Mitigating factors in the case included: Brownlee’s confession to the crime and positive steps taken to turn his life around. Defence lawyer Kristjan Thorsteinson said Brownlee should be given a conditional sentence order ranging from six months to one year and only a year of probation. He said his client at the time of the offence was struggling with mental health issues and was severely addicted to alcohol and cannabis. In the time since, however, he has become sober, does volunteer work and reconnected with family.

“It was wrong of me to run away from the situation and I’m here to accept the consequences,” Brownlee said in court. “Forgive me for what I have done.”

Boltwood’s brother Benjamin, who KTW interviewed shortly after his brother’s body was discovered, was in the courtroom for the hearing.

At the time he told the newspaper he thought his brother had freezed to death outside.

Aggravating factors of the case were that Brownlee took away the ability for Boltwood’s family to properly mourn and lay him to rest in a way fitting to them, and that Brownlee did not seek help when he discovered the deceased. Brownlee’s criminal record, which includes a few incidents of violence and threats as well as possession of stolen property files, is also being considered.

Kamloops provincial court Judge Ray Phillips has reserved judgement and a date will be determined on Monday, Jan. 18.

Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week