Murder trial lawyer Andre Ouellette, left, with co-counsel Kelly Labine speak to media after their client, Edward James Penner, had been found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in Whitehorse on September 19, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

B.C. man guilty of first-degree murder in Yukon killing

Edward James Penner, 22, was given the mandatory life sentence for the 2017 slaying of 25-year-old Adam Cormack

A B.C. man has been found guilty of first-degree murder for the 2017 slaying of 25-year-old Adam Cormack in the Yukon.

Edward James Penner, a 22-year-old from Quesnel, B.C, showed no emotion when a Whitehorse jury delivered its verdict the afternoon of Sept. 19 following roughly a day and a half of deliberations.

He also declined the chance to speak before Yukon Supreme Court deputy Justice Scott Brooker handed down the automatic sentence for first-degree murder ⁠— life in prison, with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Penner’s trial began in late August, with the jury spending just over two weeks listening to evidence painting a grim picture of how Penner and Cormack had ended near a gravel pit off Kilometre 1450 of the Alaska Highway, about 20 minutes from Whitehorse.

There, the two men had walked up a dirt trail, where Penner, in a planned and deliberate manner, shot Cormack once in the head, killing him instantly, the jury was told.

The murder was apparently prompted by a stolen or missing gun; Cormack’s body was discovered on June 28, 2017.

Members of Cormack’s family packed into the courtroom for the verdict, many of them crying and holding on to each other for support as the jury entered the room.

One woman screamed, “Yes!” and burst into loud tears as soon as the jury foreperson said the word “guilty.”

Cormack’s mother and sister, Theresa and Catherine Cormack, respectively, gave emotional victim impact statements shortly after.

“I want to say how much I hate you,” Theresa said. “You are a P.O.S. … You are a coward. I hope you rot in hell.”

Theresa described Cormack as “a loving, tender soul” and “a great person and a good boy” despite his run-ins with the law. Her life had become “a lot harder without my baby boy” as he had been the man in the house, she said, and she now feels like a “prisoner” in her own town, fearful of leaving her home.

The murder devastated her “close-knit family,” Theresa continued, and the family pets still wait for Cormack to come home, with the dog he picked out still sleeping in his bed.

“I just still wait for my boy to come through the front door and yell ‘Hey Momma, what’s up?’” she said. “Do you know how hard it is to say goodbye to my baby boy without getting to see him? No kiss on the cheek, no kiss on the forehead… Do you know how hard it is to explain to a little one what happened to Uncle Adam, and why he went to heaven?”

Cormack’s sister was reprimanded by the judge before she gave her statement because, as she walked to the podium, she had approached Penner and spoke directly to him, pointing and telling him he was “going away.”

“Edward James Penner, Tanner, whatever your freaking name is… You ruined my life on June 28, 2017… You took my baby bro away from me,” she said through heavy sobbing.

Cormack was “one of the kindest people,” Christine said, and was her “partner in crime,” her “little big bro” who always had her back.

“You, Penner, took that all away from me for the rest of my life … He should be here,” she said, describing Penner as a “sick, sick individual.”

“Look at everything you’ve done, everything you said you didn’t do… You obviously have no (conscience), you murderer.

“You have ruined my life forever… Roses are red, violets are black, I want my baby brother back.”

Penner did not show any reaction to the victim impact statements.

“Bye-bye!” someone yelled from the gallery as he was escorted out of the courtroom.

In an interview outside the courthouse, Penner’s lawyer, Andre Ouellette, said he thought the trial “went as well as can be expected, with very serious matters like this.”

“The reaction’s always the same — the jury’s never wrong. Ordinary people hear the evidence … When the jury’s pronounced its verdict, justice is done,” he said.

Neither Ouellette or his co-counsel, Kelly Labine, had had a chance to speak with Penner post-verdict.

“I think Mr. Penner heard the evidence the same way we all did,” he said, when asked about his client’s reaction. “It was a serious case. There was substantial evidence, some of it was damning, some of it, in my view at least, was very ambiguous, but the jury heard it and they’ve made their minds… We conducted our case the very best we could. I’m satisfied we conducted it well.”

Whether there will be an appeal, Ouellette said, is up to Penner.

Crown attorneys Amy Porteous and Tom Lemon declined to comment on the outcome, other than Lemon saying, “We worked very hard, I can tell you that.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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