An O’Chiese man was found not guilty in the 2019 stabbing death of a man who had recently arrived in Red Deer from the East Coast.
Quentin Strawberry was, however, found guilty of assaulting Amanda Carter, the common-law partner of murder victim Joseph Junior Alfred Gallant, 45.
Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Marilyn Slawinsky said while Strawberry was likely the one who stabbed Gallant to death with a machete, there is enough reasonable doubt that he cannot be found guilty.
Slawinsky said there were a number of significant inconsistencies in Carter’s testimony about what happened in the early hours of March 29, 2019.
Carter testified that Gallant said “yeah” when she asked him if Strawberry stabbed him.
But the conversation could not have happened the way she described based on other evidence, said Slawinsky.
“When weighing the ultimate reliability of the evidence I have a doubt that this exchange took place,” she said.
Carter also testified that she had been been taking drugs for nearly 30 years and had smoked fentanyl and taken crystal methamphetamine with Gallant the evening before the attack.
She had also been badly beaten, including being kicked or kneed in the head, by another woman shortly before Gallant was stabbed.
As well, Carter’s testimony was inconsistent about whether she told police at the scene that Gallant had identified Strawberry as his stabber.
There is also the possibility that another man, Byron Peters, who arrived with Strawberry and two woman at the home of Carter and Gallant the night he died was the killer, said the judge.
A warrant was issued for Peters to require him to testify but he was not located during the March trial.
No eyewitness to the stabbing testified. A forensic examination of the machete found DNA fragments from three people, but only Gallant’s could be identified.
Given all of the issues, Slawinsky said she could not determine within a reasonable doubt that Strawberry was the one who stabbed Gallant.
“It would be unsafe to convict Mr. Strawberry with these circumstances.”
Slawinsky offered her condolences to the family of Gallant, adding they may not see the person who killed him brought to justice.
“My heart goes out to all of them.”
Gallant was from Prince Edward Island and had only been in Red Deer for about four months when he was stabbed shortly after midnight on March 29, 2019 in the Grandview home he rented with Carter.
The machete caused a 32-centimetre deep wound and pierced a lung. He died of blood loss on the way to hospital.
Crown prosecutor Ed Ring and defence lawyer Maurice Collard asked for a four-month sentence for the assault. Ring said Strawberry’s criminal record, which includes 55 convictions since 1994, should be seen as an aggravating factor.
Slawinsky agreed to the four-month sentence.
In a statement, Collard said that “just because one side is unhappy with the outcomes doesn’t mean our adversarial justice system is not working. Often it just means the evidence isn’t there.
“Simply put, no one should be in jail unless there is proper and admissible evidence to support that, especially for a life sentence.
“While the learned justice ruled that Mr. Strawberry was an enforcer, collecting a debt, who brought the murder weapon, struck Mr. Gallant, and was the likely killer, this country does not jail people for ‘likely’ committing crimes.
“‘Likely’ is not good enough.”