Koopmans trial: Accused murderer testifies

Accused murderer has sat quietly taking notes throughout the trial, now he is taking the stand.

Defence counsel told the jury in the triple-shooting trial that the accused

Defence counsel told the jury in the triple-shooting trial that the accused

The accused has sat quietly taking notes throughout the trial, now he is taking the stand.

John Ike Koopmans, who is charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in relation to the 2013 deaths of Keith Wharton and Rosemary Fox, took the stand on Thursday in Penticton Supreme Court.

“Did you commit the crimes you are accused of?” Defence counsel Don Skogstad asked.

“No I did not,” Koopmans replied.

“Do you have a criminal record,” Skogstad asked.

“No,” Koopmans replied.

During the opening statement from the defence Skogstad noted to the jury that “if an accused chooses not to testify nobody can make them.”

The defence said they will not be re-hashing the testimony from the many Crown witnesses who have taken the stand in the trial that has lasted multiple months.

Skogstad said there have been “a lot of frailties in this case already,” reminding the jury that in Canada there is a presumption of innocence,  and that Koopmans’ guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Skogstad also reminded the jury that Koopmans will be subject to any questions the Crown has for him.

Koopmans, who has worked as a welder, prospector and commercial fishermen in the past, said he and Keith Wharton had become “good friends” and would work on welding projects together after the death of Wharton’s father.

He called Wharton a “good mechanic” but said that he had “lost interest” in the welding work and became more interested in drugs in the months prior to the incident.

He admitted to lending Wharton money to buy crack, saying that he would lend Koopmans money for liquor if he needed it.

Skogstad asked Koopmans to try on the jacket that he confirmed he was wearing on the night of the incident, March 30, 2013.

The same jacket that expert analysts confirmed they found blood on. While wearing the jacket, Koopmans was asked to hide a plastic representation of the vodka bottle Koopmans had allegedly left Elaine Hoiland’s residence with as well as an inoperable air gun representing the alleged murder weapon. While attempting to store both items in the jacket, Koopmans was asked to make a hugging motion.

This is in reference to the testimony of Bradley Martin, who said he saw Koopmans hug Rosemary Fox when entering the Wharton residence that evening.

Koopmans was unable to conceal both items without the handle of the gun protruding from a pocket.

Koopmans’ arm was also measured with a tape measure, coming in at 28 and a half inches.

Earlier on Thursday, a woman testified who can only be identified as Ms. A due to a publication ban on her identity.

She had previously had a relationship with Koopmans and described him as a “teddy bear” and said it was “hard for him to watch” Wharton’s drug use.

“Keith’s dad on his death bed asked him to please take care of my son,” Ms. A said.

She also said that “everyone in town knew Keith was a drug dealer” and said Rosemary Fox would do “anything for a hit.”

On Wednesday the Crown began questioning its last witness, Cpl. Darren Kakuno.

Kakuno was the primary investigator in Koopmans’ case.

He was questioned on key points of the investigation including a footprint found near the scene, security footage from the nearby Weyerhaeuser Mill property and the underwater recovery of a .357 magnum handgun from the Similkameen river.

Kakuno located a footprint between 20-foot high log stacks on the mill property, which borders the Wharton property where the alleged shooting took place. From there he initiated a search of the Similkameen river near the log stacks with an RCMP underwater dive team. The dive team searched the river three times. In October 2013, the third and final search of the river turned up a .357 magnum on the bottom of the riverbed with the help of metal detectors.

Kakuno said during cross examination that he and his team followed up with neighbourhood inquiries attempting to identify any of the vehicles in the video, as well as the male and female walking past the parking lot.

Kakuno said he was unable to find any further information through those inquiries.

Skogstad pointed out that there were a total of 60 officers involved in the case, though he did not press Kakuno to confirm the exact number.

The defence expects to finish its case on Monday.