The West Kelowna teen accused of fatally stabbing her friend at a 2010 house-party claimed innocence this week, but not without offering up another suspect in the process.
“You did not stab Ashlee Hyatt to defend yourself?” Crown Counsel Murray Kaay asked the18-year-old, whose name is protected under a youth publication ban.
“No, I did not,” she said.
“You did not even accidentally stab Ashlee Hyatt?”
“No, I did not,” she said.
Taking a departure from party-goer testimony that preceded hers in the last weeks of trial, the accused told the jury she didn’t face Hyatt, 16, alone in a fatal scuffle, June 2, 2010.
Instead, she, the host of the party, and Hyatt got into a “ball” of hair pulling, scratching and punching all at once, and the one holding the knife when Hyatt went down with a five-centimetre-deep cut to her neck, was most likely the host.
According to her recollection of the night, their fatal fight started with a three-way argument in the middle of a Peachland street.
Hyatt had told the accused to leave the party after she allegedly kissed someone who wasn’t her boyfriend, but the accused wanted to stay and talk it out.
In particular, she wanted the boyfriend to know that she had actually thwarted the advances of another boy, but Hyatt and the party host were having none of it and had placed themselves between the couple.
“I shoved (them) away from me with my forearm,” she said, noting later that she was “annoyed” or “irritated” by the fact nobody was listening to her. She used those words a number of times to explain her emotional state that night, denying suggestions she was angry, or upset that her friends had seemingly turned on her.
The girls then shoved the accused back, then the fighting escalated.
“Ashlee punched me, then I punched her, and it tuned into a big ball of punching and scratching.”
The melee went on for two to three minutes, and got “really rough,” she said.
“I looked over and I saw (Hyatt) lying on the ground.”
She said that she didn’t know why she was down, but when she continued fighting with the party host and she seemingly got a hint.
“The first time I saw the knife, Ashlee was down… me and (the host) were separated for a half second, and she had a knife in her hand,” she said. “She wasn’t trying to stab me. She was just holding it and flailing around.”
Eventually the accused said she got the upper hand, so she grabbed the knife that she claimed to never have seen before, waved it around and said, “get the f— away from me.”
The (host), who the teen previously said had a “docile” personality however, was being “relentless.”
“She was really angry, had a weird look in her eye, she was crying and she was upset,” she said.
An adult eventually got to the scene, and separated the girls and the accused got some perspective on what was happening around her.
Defence lawyer Ingrid Friesen asked what she thought had happened to Hyatt at this point.
“I didn’t know what happened to her, I just knew she was hurt and there were people around her,” she said, noting that she thought she may have been punched.
“I remember (another girl) yelling; get the f—- out of here if you want to live.'”
Boots, purses, clothes had been placed on the street earlier when the party was broken up, and the accused testified she took the girl’s advice, found her purse in the mix and ran away in her socked feet, leaving her boots behind.
She then ran to a young man’s house, who Crown called upon for testimony earlier in the week.
Dishevelled and crying, he let her into the house and they talked for an hour until her mother picked her up.
He asked her repeatedly what happened, and although she told them there had been fighting, she failed to offer specific details. In particular, she didn’t mention what had happened to Hyatt.
Under Kaay’s cross examination the accused was asked why she decided to be “vague” with her close friend and not mention Hyatt’s state, when she repeatedly told the jury that she just wanted to tell someone her side of the story all night.
“I didn’t want to involve him more than I did,” she said. ” I was confused and upset.”
Kaay asked if the accused had her judgment impaired by the six to eight swigs of whiskey she’d admitted to having over the course of the night.
“I was drunk, but I’ve been drunker,” she said, adding later that she’d done her fair share of drinking in the past.
She also said that she never had her memory of events impaired by alcohol and nor could she account for how Hyatt’s blood ended up on her pant leg and sweater that night.
Most of that outfit went with her when she turned herself in to police that same night, but some pieces were left behind.
Those she didn’t see until two weeks later, when she found them in the wheel well of her mother’s car.
“We had kept them, waiting for police to ask, but they never did,” she said, adding her lawyer Donna Turko told them to bring them in, and from there police picked them up.
Accused killer is friendly teenager, say family and friends
Wrapping up her defence of the teen on trial for Ashlee Hyatt’s murder, lawyer Donna Turko called upon people from her client’s past to highlight her character.
Soccer coaches, neighbours and adults who saw the teen participate in everything from sports to neighbourhood games found the young woman to be amicable, if not silly and light hearted.
A soccer coach from Langley said she was a very respectful player.
“Every time she came to the game she nudged me and would say, ‘hey buddy, how’s it going?'” said coach Andrew Burgess.
His wife kicked in that the teen was the one who would arrive smiling, happy and give hugs to all the girls.
“She played hard, like the rest of the girls, but when the game was done, it was done,” she said.
A former neighbour, Tracy Griffin, said all the kids loved the teen, who always had time for those who were younger than her.
Even her uncle was called upon, and noted that the teen was a welcomed addition to the macho world of hunting and fishing.
He’d employed her as a deck hand on his commercial fishing boat, and said she held her own.
When asked by crown counsel, however, character witnesses said they didn’t know what the teen was like when she was drinking, as they’d never seen her do so.
Closing arguments will be delivered today, and the jury is expected to start deliberating Monday.