The jury of a kidnapping, unlawful confinement and assault trial got an inside look at the tribulations of life in the South Okanagan drug world.
Drug stashes in the streets of Oliver, a home invasion by men threatening with a shotgun, paranoia causing people to bounce from home to home, addicted family members and beatings by upper-level drug dealers all came to light in the Penticton Supreme Court last week.
Nicolette Miller took the stand on Friday recounting the events of Feb. 28, 2009, a night where she started out partying with her partner and co-accused Leonard Thompson, her son and co-accused Andrew Miller and his girlfriend, who was not charged.
After running out of alcohol and crack, the group set out in Andrew’s Ford Explorer to meet alleged victim Frank Guenther, an admitted drug dealer, behind the Royal Bank in Oliver. On the way Nicolette said she received a phone call from a stranger inquiring about Guenther in which she replied she was going to meet him.
“Being high and drunk it wasn’t clicking into me. It didn’t dawn on me they were also looking for Frank,” said Nicolette.
She said Guenther didn’t have enough drugs to fill their need and had to see his distributor to reload. Nicolette said they told Guenther they could take him to meet the distributor.
“We never put Frank to the ground, and he willingly got in there (the vehicle),” testified Nicolette.
Guenther asked to borrow one of the group members cell phone because his battery died, and after making the call he told Andrew (the driver) to travel northbound and that he would be given another phone call for the final destination. Nicolette said they stopped at their ranch near Vaseux Lake and switched vehicles and Guenther willingly jumped in the truck.
A second call came into Nicolette’s cell phone as they neared the old game farm on Highway 97 just outside Penticton asking how her sister was doing. She previously told the court of her pregnant, crack-addicted, sister who dated a Kelowna drug dealer. Nicolette said through an associate of hers she met a man in Okanagan Falls and pleaded he do something to keep the dealer away from her sister.
According to Nicolette, she later found out a vehicle similar to Okanagan Falls man had pulled up at a Kelowna gas station where her sister and the boyfriend were at. Two men got out of the vehicle beat up the boyfriend and left the scene. The boyfriend was then arrested on a Canada-wide warrant.
Nicolette told the court puzzle pieces were slowly starting to fit into place that the person on the other end of her cell phone could be this very same man she pleaded with, but at the time she was high and was only thinking about getting another fix.
“I’m starting to get worried … my mind is rolling, not sure what to make of this information,” said Nicolette. “If I say turn the truck around and have Frank with me, I think they could come to my home looking for him.”
Nicolette admitted she and Thompson cuffed Guenther with an open hand a few times when he bad-mouthed them during the drive. Then at Pyramid Park Nicolette said she asked Guenther to take his jacket off because she was concerned he may have a weapon or even might have some crack on him that they could smoke. Guenther took all his clothes off except a T-shirt, and at this point another vehicle pulled up with two males in it.
“The male driving I recognize as the associate in OK Falls … at that point a light bulb went off in my head. I’m thinking I want to go home,” said Nicolette.
She said she saw Guenther get out of their vehicle on his own, and immediately the passenger in the vehicle that pulled up “flew at Frank.” She said they were asking where their money was to Guenther.
“I jumped in the truck and Lenny jumped in and I said let’s go, go,” said Nicolette. “I don’t want him (Guenther) in my truck because they are going to come looking for him through me.”
Nicolette said they drove off tossing Guenther’s clothing out the window and headed back to Oliver where they returned to the alley to look for the crack that Guenther had told them he tossed before he got in their vehicle.
“I was so shaken up that I didn’t know what the hell I got into. When you have an addition to crack cocaine it can be that important to you,” said Nicolette in response to defence counsel’s question about the group taking the time to go back to Oliver after all of this happened.
Closing arguments were delivered on Monday with the jury beginning its deliberations Tuesday afternoon.