“Calculated, callous and cruel,” is how BC Supreme Court Justice James Williams described the actions of Richard MacInnes who dumped the body of Michael Scullion in the Fraser River in 2008.
“There was something quite contemptible in the way Mr. Scullion’s remains were treated,” James told the court in handing down a sentence of 18 months in jail for causing an indignity to human remains.
The courtroom was tense as Scullion’s two brothers, his parents and other friends held each other tightly, occasionally wept and reacted to much of what was said by the judge.
Upon adjourning the court after sentence, members of Scullion’s family applauded as the 48-year-old MacInnes was led away in handcuffs, his brother yelling a profanity at the convicted man.
After the sentencing, Scullion’s mother Lynn contacted the Progress to make a statement. Lynn said in her victim impact statement to the court on Jan. 27 that she has been unable to shed tears since her son’s death.
“Today the tears finally came,” Lynn said via email. “I am truly grateful for the awesome showing of love and support for my entire family today. . . . Today I can move forward.” (See below for Lynn Scullion’s full message.)
Crown counsel Daniel Loucks asked the court for a jail sentence of 18 to 30 months, while defence lawyer Ken Beach asked for an 18-month conditional sentence order.
Loucks argued the fundamental sentencing principle of deterrence, particularly general deterrence, meant a period of incarceration was important, and Williams agreed.
MacInnes received 45 days credit for time served.
In handing down the sentence, Williams did go to lengths to make it clear that he could not and would not include consideration that MacInnes caused Scullion’s death, because that was not what he pleaded guilty to.
MacInnes was initially charged with second-degree murder, but with no body, no witnesses and little physical evidence, the Crown could not prove the homicide.
Michael Scullion picked a fight with the wrong man at the strip club in the old Harrison Crossroads Inn in Agassiz on a Wednesday in spring 2008.
After being ejected from the bar, MacInnes followed the 30-year-old outside. A fight ensued, the details of which will likely forever remain a mystery. What is clear is that Scullion died after the altercation just after midnight on April 10, 2008, and so began a day of criminal behaviour on the part of MacInnes, the subject of the sentencing hearing in BC Supreme Court on Jan. 27.
Reading from an agreed statement of fact, Crown counsel Daniel Loucks told the court there were no witnesses to the fight, but that after Scullion died, MacInnes was heard to utter a profanity, followed by: “No, no, no.”
He was then seen dragging a body to his pickup truck. He proceeded to drive all the way to South Delta, carrying Scullion’s body into the woods next to Tsawwassen Springs Golf Course across from Splashdown Park.
Then he contacted an acquaintance, George Swain, to ask for help. They met at Captain’s Cove Marina and, after some discussion, a decision was made to dump the body in the Fraser River.
The two men stopped at the Home Depot in Richmond where they purchased an eight-foot-by-eight-foot construction bag, a hand cart and ratchet straps.
Loucks made a particular point to note to the judge that MacInnes then slept at his co-conspirator’s house.
It was 22 hours after the killing when the two men drove to the spot next to the golf course on Highway 17. MacInnes went into the woods, was alone for approximately 90 minutes and came out with Scullion tightly wrapped in the construction bag, strapped to the handcart.
At 2 a.m. on April 11, they drove to a pier in Ladner, reversed out onto it and MacInnes tossed the cart with Scullion’s body into the Fraser River.
“Scullion’s remains were never recovered,” Loucks told the court.
Loucks said the fact that MacInnes spent more than 24 hours dealing with Scullion’s body across the Lower Mainland with an accomplice showed his moral culpability.
“He even slept for a few hours and, after sleeping on it, carried on with the plan,” Loucks told the court.
MacInnes argued his actions were those of a man in a state of panic, and his lawyer Ken Beatch said “the death was completely unintentional.”
“He has remorse, he has sympathy for the family,” Beatch said.
In a brief response to Beatch’s submissions, Loucks said the 26 hours that elapsed between killing the man and disposing of his body in the Fraser River, interspersed with a nap, hardly illustrated a moment of panic.
“It seems unlikely that panic gripped him for that entire time,” Loucks said.
In court Tuesday, Williams agreed the 26 hours it took to formulate and carry out his plan was an aggravating factor.
“There was plenty of time to reflect on what he was doing,” Williams said.
At the hearing on Friday, Scullion’s parents Lou and Lynn both read victim impact statements. His two brothers and his ex-wife also read statements, and Crown counsel Anna Tosso read parts of a victim impact statement from Scullion’s daughter.
“I’ve had to witness the undoing of my family,” Lynn said. “My family’s reaction to this is a source of unbelievable torture to me.”
Lou Scullion said the incident caused depression and anxiety that doesn’t go away.
“A part of me was taken in a grotesque way,” he said. “I was cut to the bone.”
Scullion’s ex-wife Joanne, the mother of his daughter, spoke about the terrible time spent searching riverbanks and fields looking for his body. But it was telling his then eight-year-old daughter she would never see him again that was the hardest.
“How can I possibly look my daughter in the eyes and tell her that her father is dead?” Joanne said.
“He did not deserve to die.”
Tosso said Scullion’s daughter, who was eight at the time of the incident and is now 17, became introverted after her father’s death and had separation anxiety.
“I was always really sad at school,” Tosso read from his daughter’s statement. “I never really had friends.”
MacInnes himself addressed the court at the end of the hearing, saying that he never intended any of it to happen.
He also addressed members of his own family who were in the courtroom.
“I hope one day i will be forgiven as I try to become a more mature and responsible person,” MacInnes said.
Michael Scullion’s mother Lynn sent the following message to the Progress after the sentencing:
“Today the tears finally came. A sentence has finally been handed down almost nine years later. I am truly grateful for the awesome showing of love and support for my entire family today. Your support has carried us through. Our family is extremely grateful to have so many caring and loving friends. Thank you everyone. Today I can move forward. Today I am encouraged and inspired because of the love of my friends.
“Love you Michael, now you can rest in peace… Mom”