At Whitehawk trial, Crown witness testifies to watching Keesha Bitternose's gruesome killing

·4 min read
Before Keesha Bitternose died, her family says the mother had plans to leave gang life to finish her social work degree and pursue a master’s program.   (Submitted by Lynea George - image credit)
Before Keesha Bitternose died, her family says the mother had plans to leave gang life to finish her social work degree and pursue a master’s program. (Submitted by Lynea George - image credit)

Warning: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.

A barely audible Crown witness wiped away tears as they softly described Keesha Bitternose's gruesome killing at the Dillon Whitehawk trial on Tuesday at Regina's Court of King's Bench.

Whitehawk, 28, is charged with first-degree murder in the 29-year-old mother's January 2020 death. He has pleaded not guilty and opted for a judge-alone trial that began last Monday.

Over the last week and a half, the court has heard testimony linking both Whitehawk and Bitternose to one of the city's most notorious street gangs: the Indian Mafia (IM).

Tuesday's Crown witness — whose identity is protected under a publication ban — testified they were a higher-ranking member of IM, but were demoted after they said Bitternose was allegedly "crying around" in the gang that they "weren't being fair with a lot of things."

They said Whitehawk told them Bitternose had also been spreading rumours that they were "green lit," or targeted to be killed.

The witness said on Jan. 1, 2020, Whitehawk had mentioned to them that they should kill Bitternose in a drive-by shooting, so they could move back up in the gang.

"He was like, 'I'll do it, but we'll just say you did it,'" the witness told co-Crown prosecutor Adam Breker.

"There was some talk about something happening?" Breker asked.

"I was just getting drunk and didn't even care," the witness responded.

They later added they just assumed Bitternose would get the gang's usual 30-second beating as discipline, but "it turned into something else."

CBC
CBC

Later that night, after the New Year's Day party at the Cameron Street home — known to the witness as the "mafia house" — they said they passed out on the couch.

The witness told the Crown they were woken up by Whitehawk, who handed them an SKS rifle and said to go downstairs.

When they got to the basement, they said they saw Bitternose on the corner of a bed with another gang member standing nearby.

They testified that Whitehawk told them to shoot Bitternose, but when they said they couldn't, they passed the gun to the other gang member.

That's when they said they watched Bitternose — an estimated arms-length away — get shot in the stomach and fall to the ground.

From there, the witness said Whitehawk and the other gang member went upstairs.

The witness told the court they were the last to leave the basement, grabbing the rifle and stepping over a mumbling Bitternose on their way up.

Later, on the main level, the witness testified through tears that they were startled when they spotted an injured Bitternose in the basement doorway, trying to crawl to the back door. But Whitehawk wouldn't let her get there, they said.

"What did he say?" Breker asked.

"He said she couldn't leave," the former gang member responded.

Whitehawk then allegedly grabbed a knife and passed it to the witness, but they said they refused to use it.

That's when Whitehawk wrapped himself around Bitternose and began stabbing her "a lot," the witness told the court.

At one point, they testified Bitternose was able to open the back door but Whitehawk closed it with his foot.

"She was still alive when [Whitehawk] moved away from her, but she wasn't trying," the witness said.

Bitternose's autopsy revealed she had too many injuries from being beaten, stabbed and possibly shot to determine her exact cause of death. She ultimately died of a collapsed lung and severe blood loss, the forensic pathologist concluded.

Regina Police Service/Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench
Regina Police Service/Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench

During their cross-examination, the witness was questioned by defence lawyer Thomas Hynes about how they and Whitehawk were "green lit" in the gang for their involvement in Bitternose's death.

The witness confirmed that was true.

Hynes went on to bring up a December 2020 preliminary inquiry transcript that showed they had previously testified to telling people they had killed Bitternose.

"I didn't start remembering things until later," the witness said, later clarifying they were in shock at the time and coming off drugs.

The defence also went over the witness's criminal record, which included robbery and being the getaway driver in a drive-by shooting — a case where Hynes said the witness committed perjury but wasn't convicted.

"You've lied under oath at trial?" the attorney asked.

"Yes," the witness said.

Before he completed his cross-examination, Hynes asked the former gang member if the roles were reversed and they killed Bitternose while Whitehawk watched.

"No," the witness flatly replied.

The Crown rested its case Tuesday.

The defence didn't put forward any evidence when court reconvened on Wednesday morning, but asked Justice Janet McMurtry to order transcripts of the Crown's last few witnesses so the defence could further review the evidence.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Nov. 7 at Regina's Court of King's Bench.