Brittney Irving’s brother blurted out “yes” and supporters of Joelon Verma began to sob after a jury found Verma guilty of first degree murder in the death of Irving three years ago.
The verdict Thursday afternoon came more than 48 hours after a jury of six men and six women began deliberations and was followed by the imposition of the mandatory sentence for first degree murder—life without parole for 25 years.
Verma, 32, had no visible reaction upon hearing the verdict, but had tears in his eyes and swallowed hard as he looked at his emotional supporters after being sentenced.
Outside court, Irving’s mother, Sandra, expressed relief with the outcome.
“I’m happy,” she said as she leaned on son Joze Macculloch. “I’m a happy, happy girl.”
When asked what she would say to Verma if she had the opportunity, she told reporters: “I don’t think I could say it on TV.
“I just hope he rots in hell.”
Kisa Crane, an Irving family supporter who sat through much of the trial, noted that Irving was just 24 and made mistakes, like many of us.
“She didn’t get an opportunity to correct those mistakes, like most of us do. Her life, we don’t know what it would have been….Now he won’t be able to find out what his life will be either,” she said.
Crane expressed gratitude for the efforts of the Crown and for the witnesses who put their reputations on the line to testify.
On April 6, 2010, Irving had gathered up more than $100,000 worth of marijuana before Verma, who she was dating, took her to the bush outside Kelowna and shot her four times—twice in the back and then twice as she lay on the ground.
The jury’s conclusion that Verma is guilty of first degree murder means that they found Verma planned to kill Irving.
A day after Irving was last seen alive, she was reported missing by her family and her vehicle was found off Philpott Road.
While police questioned Verma after she went missing—he said they were supposed to meet for a two pound marijuana deal but she didn’t show—police didn’t catch a break until Verma’s cousin, Jason Labonte, told investigators he saw Irving and Verma together at his house on April 6. Labonte also told officers he had been contacted by Verma that same afternoon, asking for help after he got stuck in the bush.
When officers returned to the location—a side road jutting off McCulloch Forest Service Road–with a police service dog on April 26, they soon found Irving, deceased.
She was wearing a green plaid jacket and running shoes that did not fit her.
Those items belonged to Mike Roberts, who had lent his truck to Verma on April 6 after Verma mentioned he needed a different vehicle for a business deal near Big White.
After Roberts’ truck was returned, Verma told him not to tell anyone he had lent out his truck. After weeks of Verma checking that Roberts hadn’t told anyone—and around the time police seized Roberts’ truck and Labonte’s firearms as part of their investigation—Verma told Roberts he had to “take the fall.”
“You have to take the fall for this….If you don’t I have no choice but to kill you, your wife, your children and your grandchildren,” said Verma as he pressed his hand into Roberts’ stomach with a gun gesture. “I’m sorry, that’s just how we do business.”
Text messages between Verma and Labonte, who spent a lot of time together, also took a turn, with Verma telling Labonte to keep his ” f—ing mouth shut” around the same time.
Verma was eventually arrested on June 25, 2010 and charged in Irving’s death. At the time, he was described as a former member of the Independent Soldiers.
By Cheryl Wierda, Capital News contributor