Kelowna Law Courts (File photo)

Several murder trials facing delays in Kelowna courts during pandemic

The alteration of court procedures amid the pandemic has caused the delay of several high-profile cases in the region

At least four murder trials making their way through Kelowna courts have had their dates pushed back during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the alteration of court procedures.

Tejwant Danjou, a Surrey man accused of killing his partner in West Kelowna in July 2018, had his second-degree murder trial abruptly postponed in early-March, just two weeks into the five-week proceedings.

When his trial began in February, Danjou entered an impromptu guilty plea before recanting it the next day. Danjou’s lawyer said he did not understand that a guilty plea to second-degree murder meant he must admit there was intent to kill.

He is set to appear in court for a pre-trial conference on May 20 but BC Prosecution Service communications counsel, Dan McLaughlin, told the Capital News the Crown is eyeing dates in early June for trial to resume.

READ MORE: Surrey couple had abusive relationship prior to woman’s West Kelowna murder

Recently, the trial for the man accused in a mass shooting that killed four people in Penticton last year was moved to Kelowna court.

On May 14, a judge accepted 69-year-old John Brittain’s proposal to move the trial, though the details discussed at the hearing are covered under a publication ban.

Brittain is facing three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder related to the deaths of Susan and Barry Wonch, Rudi Winter and Darlene Knippelberg on April 15, 2019.

The matter has faced several delays while working its way through Penticton courts over the past year, the most recent being the COVID-19 pandemic which has put off setting the trial date twice over the past few months.

Brittain has elected to have a jury trial.

In March, Black Press Media reported that the trial for the accused Penticton shooter was anticipated to take four weeks.

The matter will be back in court on May 22 to schedule a date for trial.

READ MORE: Penticton quadruple murder trial moved to Kelowna

Kevin Costin was arrested May 26, 2017, and charged with second-degree murder, arson and indignity to human remains in the November 2015 death of his wife, 37-year-old Hazel Budiongan.

After an already lengthy wind through Kelowna courts, Costin’s trial was slated to begin with jury selection on April 14. McLaughlin said the Crown is exploring new dates for a trial.

Costin was released on bail in December 2019 but remains under house arrest.

A voir dire, a trial within a trial to determine the validity of evidence, has been scheduled for June 15, further delaying the jury trial.

READ MORE: Still no trial date set for West Kelowna man charged in wife’s 2015 death

Three men accused in the January 2018 death of Michael Bonin also had their trial pushed back.

Joshua Fleurant, Ryan Watt and Jared Jorgenson are alleged to have killed Bonin and left his body on Peers Creek Forest Service Road north of Hope. His body wasn’t found until nearly three months after his death, in April 2018.

Both Watt and Fleurant remain in custody. Jorgensen was granted bail in June 2018.

The trial was scheduled to begin in June but a new date will be fixed at the next court appearance on May 28.

READ MORE: Kelowna trial date set for three men accused of 2017 killing near Hope

Kelowna’s fatal 2018 Canada Day stabbing also continues to make its way through court.

Nathan Truant, 27, and Noah Vaten, 21, as well as two unnamed minors, are charged with manslaughter in the death of Esa Carriere.

Carriere was stabbed to death during Canada Day celebrations near the Queensway Transit Exchange in downtown Kelowna.

Vaten remains in custody. Truant and the two minors were released on bail.

The matter appeared on May 19 for a pretrial conference. A trial date should be scheduled at the next appearance on June 22.

READ MORE: Two charged in Kelowna Canada Day stabbing death back in court

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@michaelrdrguez
michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

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