Three suspects out of seven were remanded in custody by choice and four others were to be released pending bail after their first court appearance on Friday, Dec. 19 over charges of abduction and unlawful confinement of a Ponoka resident over an alleged drug debt of $200.
Police arrested the seven suspects on Wednesday, Dec. 17 after they abducted a 23-year- old male from his home and forcibly confined him to another residence.
The seven accused are: Christine Kirkeby (29) of Red Deer, Shane Kerik (42) of Lacombe County, Tyler Scott (21) of Red Deer, Lane Dickson (19) of Red Deer, Ashley Shewchuk (28) of Ponoka, Zackary Purdy (24) of Innisfail and James Miller-Laney (28) of Ponoka.
They jointly face charges of break, enter and commit robbery using a firearm; assault with the intent to steal while armed with an offensive weapon; use of a firearm during kidnapping; carry imitation of a weapon; utter threats to kill and unlawful confinement.
According to the details of the incident disclosed during the court proceedings, at approximately 5 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 17, four men arrived at the victim’s house and kicked down the door while in possession of what appeared to be a rifle, swords and machetes.
They forced those in the house to lie down on the floor while searching for valuable items. Before leaving, they told the victim they would return for him. The victim, who cannot be named, did not report the incident to police.
Crown prosecutor R. Clark told the court those who broke into the house that morning were part of a new drug trafficking gang operating in Ponoka. The abduction and confinement is said to have been triggered by $200 in drug money allegedly owed by the victim to one of the accused.
Later in the day, the suspects returned and took the victim to the confinement residence, where he remained for some time. The police were alerted to the incident by passersby, one of whom witnessed the victim being transported back to a maroon Chevy Suburban.
The suspects and the victim were located in the Suburban at the Stampede Esso gas station, where a high-risk traffic stop was conducted. Witnesses said several officers with their guns drawn were seen shouting at the suspects.
Police were seen taking away two swords for evidence after five individuals were arrested.
Later that same evening, an Emergency Response Team (ERT) was mobilized to assist Ponoka RCMP with the execution of a search warrant at the confinement residence. Witnesses say police blocked off the street and turned motorists around to ensure the home was secured. Two more people were arrested as result of the search of the residence.
At the beginning of the court proceedings on Friday, Judge W. Andreassen informed the accused they could choose to wait to apply for release on Jan. 2 or attempt to gain bail during their first appearance.
In the Jan. 2 hearing, the suspects will be able to notify the court how they want to be tried for their offences.
According to the criminal trial procedures, if the accused is charged with an indictable offence and the offence is not within the jurisdiction of the provincial court, the accused can choose which court will hear the case. The accused may choose to be tried by a provincial court judge without a jury and without a preliminary inquiry; by a Queen’s Bench justice without a jury, or, by a Queen’s Bench justice and jury.
Early in the proceedings Kerik’s bail was set at $2,000 with a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew condition attached.
Purdy opted to reserve his election until Jan. 2 and remain in detention at the Edmonton Remand Centre where he will appear in court via CCTV.
Scott and Dickson also chose to be remanded in custody. “They all wish the issue of release to go over to Jan. 2,” said Clark.
Regarding Purdy, the Crown requested a no contact order, directly or indirectly, with Kirkeby, Shewchuk, Miller-Laney, the victim or another man who lives in the same residence as the victim. He had clothing and swords stolen from him on Dec. 13.
Purdy objected to a no contact order with Kirkeby, who is his common-law wife, but Andreassen ordered it anyway.
Scott was issued the same no contact order.
The Crown was opposed to Kirkeby’s release as she has a fail to appear conviction for a less serious situation on her criminal record, stated Clark.
Through duty counsel, Kirkeby claimed she was not in the SUV when it was pulled over by police. However the pre-sentence investigation (PSI) report contradicted her account. Judge Andreassen told Kirkeby she had the opportunity to provide an explanation to the confusion but she would have to take an oath and consent to cross-examination. She refused.
Kirkeby was released pending a $1,000 bail with several strict conditions including not being within a one-kilometre radius of Ponoka and have no direct or indirect contact with any of the co-accused (excluding Dickson), victim or the other man who lived in the house.
Shewchuk’s bail was set at $1,000 and the Crown consented to her release. Her conditions mirror Kirkeby’s and she is to have no contact with Dickson.
Miller-Laney was dealt with separately and the Crown prosecutor consented to his release because he provided investigators with a plausible explanation to his lack of involvement. He will be back in court on Jan. 2.
Miller-Laney drove the SUV to pick up the victim, on an order from Purdy and said he was promised there would be no violence and was arrested after the ESSO incident during a warranted search of Shewchuk’s house where she was also arrested.
He was released on a no cash bail set at $2,500 with similar conditions to the two women involved.