LETHBRIDGE – The manslaughter trial for Jillian Wendy Across the Mountain continued Tuesday, May 15, with a second juror being dismissed from the case – bringing the jury down to 11 members.
The man had requested to be released, and while Justice Rodney Jerke ultimately agreed, he first reprimanded the individual.
“In my view sir, you have done a disservice not only to this accused person but to this court, and more importantly, your community,” said Jerke.
The individual was dismissed after hearing the first few pieces of evidence Monday afternoon. The first juror to leave did so before the trial officially got underway. Twelve jurors were originally selected, plus one alternate.
Moving back into the trial, the Lethbridge Police Officer who responded to the home of the victim, Frances Candace ‘Candy’ Little Light, multiple times on the day she was killed, then took the stand as the Crown’s first witness.
The victim and accused had been living together in the apartment along Columbia Boulevard West at the time of the incident in early 2016.
Cst. Nicole Arvay stated that she responded to the residence around 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 7, 2016, following a 911 call reporting a disturbance at the building.
Upon arrival, Arvay and another officer went to Little Light’s unit, where Across the Mountain answered the door and let them in. Arvay said that Across the Mountain was very cooperative, polite and pleasant, and showed no signs of impairment.
As the officers entered, Arvay said she observed Little Light lying on the couch, then jump up and start screaming at them to leave when they started speaking to her. “In my opinion, she was very intoxicated,” said Arvay. After a short interaction, Arvay said she asked Across the Mountain to take care of Little Light, which she agreed to, and they left. Out in the parking lot of the apartment building, Arvay then learned that Little Light had called 911 and went back inside.
As part of defence cross examination of Arvay, the defence played four calls that Little Light made to 911. In them, she says police entered her home and were harassing her, slurring her speech at times and yelling at the operator. After being told not to call the emergency line unless she had an emergency, the operators would then hang up, only to have Little Light call back again immediately. It finally ended when Arvay and the officer returned to the apartment and spoke to her again, before finally leaving the scene.
When defence lawyer Michael Dietrich asked if Little Light moved towards the officers “in an aggressive manner” when she got off the couch, Arvay agreed, noting that her stance was threatening, but said she was not combative.
Arvay was then asked if she was concerned for Across the Mountain’s safety, considering how Little Light interacted with them. She replied, “[Little Light] doesn’t like us… she’s not a fan of the police,” adding that the aggression only appeared to be directed at them and that the apartment was silent until they went inside.
Arvay’s testimony also covered the third time that day that she was called to the building, this time after Little Light had been found in a pool of her own blood. Arvay and other officers arrived around 5:17 p.m. and were met by a woman inside the building. They ran to the apartment where they found three other individuals in the kitchen, one of whom was still on the phone with 911.
She testified that Little Light was sitting on the floor in the living room, her head slumped forward and her arms in her lap, with a “significant amount of blood all the way around her.” She noted a puncture wound to Little Light’s left arm, but then proceeded to clear the apartment when another officer and EMS took over.
The four individuals at the scene were taken to LPS headquarters for questioning, with Arvay noting that Across the Mountain was not there.
Testimony was also heard from Brandon Plaited Hair, who had been in the building on the day Little Light was killed.
Plaited Hair explained that he was staying in his brother’s apartment at the time, and that on the morning of Feb. 7 he heard Little Light yelling in the hallway of the building, banging on doors and calling out for Jillian. He acknowledged that he didn’t see the person but said he recognized Little Light’s voice.
Later that afternoon, Plaited Hair said he saw Across the Mountain outside. “I seen her leaving the building in a rush,” he stated, adding that she kept looking over her shoulder as she left.
During cross examination, he said that while Little Light was banging on their door, she said she would kill his mother if she wasn’t told where Jillian was. He noted that he was aware of issues between the two and that Little Light was the more aggressive, but said he had only seen verbal disputes, never physical ones.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
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