NEW WESTMINSTER – A Surrey woman accused of stabbing her best friend 41 times dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex as the court viewed crime scene photos of the deceased when her trial began this week.
Jessica Ashley Hanley, 25, is being tried for second-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Burnaby resident Tashina Rae Sutherland, killed inside a small rancher at 10593 138th St. in Whalley on April 26, 2012.
Hanley, in a soft-spoken voice, pleaded not guilty to the charge and elected to be tried by a judge only. Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey is presiding at the trial, set for five weeks in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
Crown prosecutor Jennifer Lopes told the judge she can expect to hear that Hanley, who was 23 at the time of the killing, invited Sutherland to her then-boyfriend’s home the night before.
Lopes said in her opening statement – which is not evidence but rather an overview of what she expects will be heard – that Hanley’s boyfriend bought some cocaine for the two women but didn’t partake as he had to work in the morning.
While he was at work, Lopes said, Hanley and Sutherland ran some errands, bought some liquor, returned to the house and began drinking.
The prosecutor said Sutherland was “quite intoxicated” when she died – her blood alcohol content was roughly three times over the legal driving limit.
Lopes said the court will hear Hanley attacked Sutherland in the living room and that several of the stab wounds by themselves would have killed her. She then dragged Sutherland into the bathroom, Lopes charged, and stabbed her again. Several of the wounds were inflicted postmortem, the court heard.
Lopes told the court Hanley then text-messaged her boyfriend saying she killed Sutherland and when he returned home from work in the afternoon, he found Sutherland’s body in the bathroom, confronted Hanley, and called police after she left.
Hanley then walked to her dad’s home nearby, where he’d been looking after her four-year-old son, and her dad returned to
find her distraught, cuddling the boy.
Lopes said the court can expect to hear Hanley’s dad took her to the police station after she told him she’d killed Sutherland.
The prosecutor also told the judge that, while on bail, Hanley wrote a letter to a woman at Vision Quest Recovery Society admitting she killed Sutherland.
Lopes told Arnold-Bailey that the issue at trial will be Hanley’s state of mind at the time of the stabbing.
The court is expected to hear testimony from about a dozen Crown witnesses. Next week the trial will be in voir dire – that is, a trial within a trial, wherein lawyers argue what should be admitted into evidence. Arnold-Bailey will have to decide if three statements that Hanley made to police over
eleven and a half hours of interviews will be admitted or not.
The Crown’s first witness Monday was Const. Darren Richard Thompson a Surrey RCMP forensic identification officer. Hanley cried as the court viewed photographs of the deceased’s face and her body slumped up against the bathtub.
Thompson said two knives were found, and showed them in court.
He told the court one of them, a blackhandled boning knife with a bent blade six inches long, was found inside a yellow bucket in the kitchen and the other – a bayonet-style knife with a 10-inch-long blade about a half-inch wide at the hilt – was found on the living room couch. Thompson said this knife contained DNA from both the victim and the accused.
Sonny Moosomin, who considered Hanley to be his best friend, testified Tuesday that the accused and victim had been “really close…basically sisters.” The women had known each other since they were children and were “like kin” to one another, having been friends since they were children, he said.
The trial continues.