The nephew of Surrey Six murder victim Ed Schellenberg testified Wednesday that he was told not to service the gas fireplace in the apartment where his uncle and five others would later be found murdered.
Zachary Brown, 26, took the stand in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, describing how the week-long job with his uncle at Balmoral Tower apartments in Surrey was his first week working as a newly certified gas technician.
After being instructed that he would not be going to suite 1505, Brown went to a neighbouring suite on the 15th floor instead, meeting who he would later learn was Christopher Mohan in 1504. Mohan was wearing basketball shorts and there was a ball nearby, so the two young men chatted about the game while Brown worked on the fireplace. He seemed like a nice kid, Brown testified.
Brown, who was 20 years old at the time, then went to suite 1508, where, after returning to his van for some paint, he continued work, talking to the male tenant there. It was then, Brown said, he heard strange noises.
He passed it off, not wanting to interrupt the conversation, he testified.
“They were very steady and grouped together,” said Brown of the noises. “There was no pause between each sound. It was one, two, three, four, five. Four or five.”
In a police statement he would give later, he said they didn’t sound like gunshots, but more like something hitting a wall.
His job was done for the day, but he talked to the tenant for a while longer about a TV he had for sale, then left, leaving the building toward home. His uncle’s van was still in the parking lot at the Balmoral.
It wasn’t until later that the tenant from suite 1508 called him – they had exchanged numbers about the TV – to say something “bad” had happened at the Balmoral and to watch the news.
Brown’s mother also called later to see how much work there was left to do when he left the Balmoral because Schellenberg hadn’t returned home and his aunt had called, wondering.
Brown was the third witness to testify at the trial of three men charged with killing six men on Oct. 19, 2007 at the Balmoral.
Two innocent victims – Schellenberg and Mohan – were killed that day, as were Edward Narong, Ryan Bartolomeo and brothers Corey and Michael Lal, who had ties to the drug trade.
Cody Rae Haevischer, Matthew Johnston and Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le are currently on trial for the murders, facing first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder charges.
Three others, including Jamie Bacon, are also charged in the case. Bacon and another man will be tried at a later date, while another who cannot be named has pleaded guilty.
The trial opened Monday with the Crown laying out its theory that Corey Lal was the intended victim of the mass murder, and that the others were killed to eliminate any witnesses.
Prosecutor Mark Levitz showed photos from the crime scene in suite 1505 of two groups of three bodies lying in rows, all with their heads covered, pools of blood visible around several.
The Crown’s theory is that Corey Lal was dealing drugs in the area, which raised the ire of Bacon and his fellow Red Scorpion gang members because it was on their turf. The Crown alleges Bacon and Le ordered Haevischer, Johnston and another person (who can’t be identified) to kill Corey Lal.
Instead, said prosecutor Mark Levitz, six men were executed that day.
The first two witnesses to take the stand earlier this week were Norman and Tracy Carothers, the former co-managers of the apartment building.
Norman was emotional as he re-lived the moment he opened suite 1505 and saw six bodies on the floor. He initially thought it was a gas leak, but upon looking around the room, realized it was something else, and fled to get a neighbour to call 911.
Tracy Carothers also recalled the day leading up to the murders, and the fact she had suggested to Schellenberg that he not have his young nephew service the fireplace in suite 1505 because of the type of young men she saw coming and going from the suite. She testified that she had earlier warned the owner of the suite that she thought his tenant was dealing drugs.
The trial continues.