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Verdicts issued in murder of Jordan McLeod

A B.C. Supreme Court Justice found two men guilty Friday of second-degree murder and a third guilty of manslaughter in a drug-related shooting death of a Prince George man just east of the city.
Jordan Taylor McLeod

A B.C. Supreme Court Justice found two men guilty Friday of second-degree murder and a third guilty of manslaughter in a drug-related shooting death of a Prince George man just east of the city.

In issuing the second-degree murder verdicts to Darren Sundman and Sebastian Martin, Justice James Williams found the two had fired their guns upon Jordan Taylor McLeod while there was no evidence that Kurtis Sundman pulled a trigger.

The act occurred on Upper Fraser Road, just off Highway 16, on the night of Jan. 16, 2015.

Williams provided a lengthy and sometimes complicated account of the events leading up to McLeod's death and of the events that followed while roughly 50 people - most appearing to be friends and family of McLeod - looked on from the gallery.

The brothers Sundman were living in Vanderhoof at the time where the two, particularly Darren Sundman, were "substantially involved in the drug trade," while Martin was an acquaintance who bought drugs from Darren Sundman, from time to time, and sometimes sold them on his behalf.

McLeod was a Prince George-based dealer who was supplying drugs to the Sundmans. But he also began supplying another man in the Vanderhoof area, Tanner James, who had been working for the Sundmans but was "beginning to aspire to take a more prominent place in the Vanderhoof drug scene," Williams said.

Moreover, McLeod and Darren Sundman's ex-girlfriend, Stacey Stevenson, had struck up a romantic relationship although she had continued to live in Sundman's Vanderhoof home.

James had been living in the town, 100 kilometres west of Prince George but, after a conflict with the Sundmans, had moved to the Saik'uz reserve a short drive south of Vanderhoof.

On the day of his death, McLeod drove to Vanderhoof in a rented car and, at about 8 p.m., the Sundmans, Martin and McLeod showed up at the home in a pickup truck Kurtis Sundman had stolen a few days before.

McLeod pushed James into the truck and they drove off. As they were going along Sundman brothers were hitting James and making it known they were angry he had been getting his drugs from McLeod. When James said he had some drugs and a couple hundred dollars back at the house, they turned around.

When they arrived, James darted inside while others living in the home prevented his pursuers from gaining entry. A fracas ensued in which one of the women in the home struck Kurtis Sundman with a bat while McLeod appeared to stand to one side. The Sundmans backed off but not before tossing a bullet inside the home and threatening to return.

McLeod, Martin and the Sundmans then left and drove back to Darren Sundman's home in Vanderhoof where, according to Williams' findings, each of the three defendants collected their firearms - each of the Sundmans carrying a handgun and Martin a shotgun.

Stevenson was also at the home and was called to join them.

Much of what Williams found happened next hinged on Stevenson's testimony. While defence counsel worked to cast doubt on her credibility - noting her use of methamphetamine and questioning her motivation - Williams found her to be an "essentially truthful witness." He added her testimony was also supported by other evidence found at the scene of the shooting, in the truck and elsewhere.

As for Stevenson's involvement, Williams found she had been effectively "swept along" in the events.

According to Stevenson, they headed towards Prince George in the pickup truck, with Kurtis Sundman driving, McLeod in the front passenger seat, Darren Sundman behind him, Martin in the rear driver's side seat and Stevenson in between them.

Darren Sundman was angry with McLeod and hit him over the head with his gun. McLeod, in turned, implored Sundman to let him go and promised to forgive him the debt he owed. The matter escalated when Sundman found a way to unlock McLeod's cellphone and found a message suggesting McLeod would cut off Sundman's head or that of his mother if the debt was not repaid.

Williams found that by that time, they had passed through Prince George after brief stops to buy drugs and beer and had just passed Prince George Regional Correctional Centre on Highway 16.

They continued on at a high rate of speed - with McLeod being encouraged to jump out, according to Stevenson - but then turned onto Upper Fraser Road where McLeod opened the door and rolled out of the truck as it slowed down.

Kurtis Sundman put on the brakes and the three men got out of the truck while Stevenson remained behind but moved to the front seat after trying to restrain Darren Sundman.

Her head turned away, Stevenson heard shots ring out and then, a short time later, Martin say "I got it boss," and then two more shots.

She saw the three drag McLeod's body back to the truck and load him into the box.

Williams concluded it was about 11:30 p.m. by then and that RCMP received a shots-fired report about 15 minutes later and were on the scene shortly before midnight. They found four bullet casing and two shotgun shells, along with blood and evidence that something had been dragged at the scene.

With Martin hanging onto a rope strung through the rear window and tied to McLeod to keep him from falling out, they drove back through Prince George, heading along River Road, and then onto the Kaykay Forest Service Road northwest of the city where his body was dragged into the bush and left behind.

From there, they went to a friend's home on Chief Lake Road where the truck was cleaned up and, according to testimony, Darren Sundman said he had "done a very bad thing" for which he could go away for a very long time as he passed a handgun back and forth between his hands.

Crown counsel had argued for verdicts of first-degree murder against all three, saying they had planned to kill McLeod from the moment they had collected their firearms and left Vanderhoof and, in the alternative, that the death occurred while the three had confined McLeod. But Williams was not convinced beyond reasonable doubt that there was the planning and aforethought to warrant the verdict.

"While they were vicious and violent in their treatment of Mr. McLeod, there was much about what they did that was random, haphazard and impulsive," Williams said. "There is also the question of why they brought Stacey Stevenson along on the trip if they had such a plan at the outset."

As for the confinement argument, Williams found that while McLeod was being assaulted while in the truck, he nonetheless had jumped out before he was shot and "thereby had been able to escape his confinement."

"I recognize that the time between the end of the confinement and the firing of the shots was brief," Williams said. "Certainly, Mr. McLeod was still in a situation of vulnerability and that vulnerability was a consequence of the manner in which he had been dealt with in the truck. There nonetheless was a gap in time.

"The onus of proving continuing confinement is, of course, on the Crown, and I am not satisfied it has done so in this case."

As for Kurtis Sundman, Williams found no evidence he fired his gun or aided and abetted, but he found Sundman knew he was involved in a situation in which McLeod would probably be shot and so, found him guilty of manslaughter.

Williams issued his verdict after hearing from 86 witnesses over the course of 59 days. The trial began on October 16, 2017 and ended on February 5 with closing arguments heard during the week of Feburay 19.

Sentencing has been scheduled for June 18-19 at the Prince George courthouse.