VANCOUVER — Gary Donald Johnston will continue to serve his life sentence for the 1998 murder of Vic Fraser, a man he brutally stabbed to death in Bridgeview.
Johnston most recently, and unsuccessfully, appealed his 17-year ineligibility to apply for parole, with his lawyers arguing that the sentencing judge should have treated an eleven-and-a-half year delay between the crime and his arrest as a mitigating factor.
They argued this point in B.C.’s Court of Appeal on grounds Johnston will stay in prison into old age whereas had he been dealt with in 1998, when he was 39, he’d have a longer life span when and if he gets out.
“With respect, I find no merit in this ground,” Justice Ian Donald concluded. “He was found guilty of a crime that was difficult to investigate. In light of his own wrongdoing, I fail to see how the applicant can take advantage of that and improve his position on sentence by reason of the difficulty of the investigation.”
Justices Mary Newbury and John Savage concurred.
Johnston had already lost an earlier appeal of his second-degree murder conviction. In that case, Justice David Frankel stated that “reasonable and well-informed members of the community would not find the manner in which the police investigated Mr. Fraser’s murder shocking and unacceptable. Fellow judges Edward Chiasson and Daphne Smith concurred.
Johnston was sentenced in November 2011 to the mandatory life sentence, and to serve 17 years in prison before he can apply for parole, after Justice Robert Crawford found him guilty of murdering Fraser on March 10, 1998.
The trial, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, heard Johnston stabbed Fraser nine times, breaking off knife blades in his neck before bludgeoning him with a flowerpot, booting him in the ribs and making off with his wallet.
The court heard Fraser, a 42-year-old crane operator from New Westminster, had interrupted Johnston while Johnston was burglarizing a little yellow bungalow Fraser’s sister owned in Bridgeview. Fraser died of massive blood loss.
After Fraser’s death, Johnston made his way to Regina where, eight-and-a-half months later, he stabbed caretaker Wayne Griffith multiple times in the neck, wrapped his body in plastic and dumped it in a desolate field.
Originally charged with second-degree murder in that case, Johnston pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years, plus time served. He did seven.
Undercover police posing as an organized crime gang in what’s known as a “Mr. Big interview” approached Johnston when he was on parole and roughly 60 scenarios were enacted in Ontario and Quebec, over six months, to win his trust. The 2011 trial heard that during their last scenario Johnston told the undercover cops that he’d stabbed Fraser about 30 times in the throat, and also offered to carry out killings for the bogus crime syndicate. He was arrested immediately after that.
Johnston’s lawyer in that appeal had argued the Mr. Big operation was an abuse of process “designed to prey on the poverty and social isolation” Johnston experienced after being released from prison, and that simulated violence scenarios “unacceptable to Canadians” were used “where it was made to appear” that two people were kidnapped, beaten and killed.
“While Mr. Johnston was unemployed, he was not socially isolated, destitute, or vulnerable,” Frankel found.
“He was not a person unaccustomed to violence.”
The killer’s life-long criminal record began at age 18 and since then he has been convicted, sometimes on multiple occasions, of burglary, assault causing bodily harm and extortion, besides the Saskatchewan manslaughter conviction and his murder conviction in the Fraser case.