A Prince George RCMP member found tracks in the snow that led from the accused back to the vicinity of the home he is alleged to have set on fire, but was unable to completely trace the path back to the scene of the blaze, the court heard Monday.
Frank William Edward Marion, 50, faces charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and arson causing bodily harm in relation to the early-morning Jan. 7, 2012 fire at 2772 Merritt Road and the subsequent death of Jagdev Singh Jawanda, 85.
Crown prosecution and defence counsel have agreed the home was intentionally set on fire and Jawanda died as a result. At issue is whether Marion was responsible for the blaze.
On Tuesday, Const. Chris Christinger testified he was called at 3:05 a.m. to the corner of Lansdowne and Ferry, about a kilometre away from the home, to provide backup to Const. James Della Torre.
In testimony last week, Della Torre said he called for assistance after responding to a complaint of a man knocking on doors in the area. When Marion was identified as the suspect, Della Torre learned he lived in the home a fire had just broken out - firefighters were called to the scene at 3 a.m. - and that the accused may be violent or mentally unstable.
Upon arrival, Christinger said he found a man wearing dark clothing sitting in a bus shelter and while reluctant to answer questions was generally co-operative and rational and showed no signs of impairment, contrary to the warning on the police database.
"As a matter of fact I was a little stunned that he was not displaying any of the symptoms or characteristics that I would associate with such an entry," Christinger said.
Marion willingly handed over a duffel bag that was on the ground behind him to Della Torre who then passed it on to Christinger. When he opened the bag's top zipper, Christinger noticed a "very overwhelming" odour of gasoline.
"It literally jumped out of the bag and slapped me in the face, it was that powerful of a smell," Christinger said. When he told Della Torre, he replied he noticed the smell too, Christinger testified.
When he conducted a cursory search of Marion for weapons, Christinger said he noted no such smell from the accused, nor did he notice a smell of liquor.
About a half inch to an inch of fresh snow was covering the ground at the time and Christinger said he noticed footprints that came from Marion's footwear.
Accompanied by an RCMP dog handler, Christinger said he was able to continuously follow the prints back along Lansdowne, then through the municipal cemetery, across Highway 16 and into the Costco parking lot where they were lost as the snow was compacted under vehicle traffic.
Christinger did a "fan search" of the area, first going left, then going right, and found no other tracks in the parking lot. But when he went to Wiebe Road on the parking lot's west side, Christinger said he found two sets of tracks that he recognized as Marion's with the heel oriented towards Merritt Road.
On Wiebe, one set of tracks went along the road and another along the sidewalk and they several metres apart. "And there had been vehicle marks on the road that obscured any other tracks," Christinger said.
No tracks were found along Merritt Road, Christinger said under cross examination.
Christinger said he got a ride back to his vehicle where he retrieved a steel ruler and a digital camera to measure and take photos of the footprints.
Closing submissions are scheduled to be given this morning in the trial by judge alone before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Tindale.