Ed Schellenberg was encouraged to go without his younger nephew to fix the fireplace in the high-rise unit where he would end up being executed at gunpoint because a building manager was uneasy about the men she found there.
Tracy Carothers, testifying Tuesday at the trial of three men accused in the 2007 Surrey Six killings, recalled the moments on the afternoon of Oct. 19 when she was guiding Mr. Schellenberg through the Balmoral Tower in Surrey.
Within hours, the tidy 15-storey apartment building would come to be known as the site of one of British Columbia’s worst gang-related mass killings as six men – two of them innocent bystanders – were found shot to death in Unit 1505.
The trial, which began this week in B.C. Supreme Court, has been told by the Crown that members of a gang called the Red Scorpions targeted the tenant of the unit because he refused to pay $100,000 demanded as a sign of deference.
Ms. Carothers told the court she knocked on doors with Mr. Schellenberg to see whether tenants were in, as the Abbotsford man went about the complex working on fireplaces.
Under questioning from Crown attorney Mark Levitz, the former manager said she knocked on the door of 1504, and found 22-year-old Chris Mohan, who lived there with his parents. After about a decade in the building, the family had moved from the floor below about a month earlier.
Mr. Schellenberg, a 55-year-old father of two, and Mr. Mohan ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Christopher answered 1504,” Ms. Carothers recalled as the three accused, alleged members of the Red Scorpions gang, looked on from their individual prisoners docks across the high-security courtroom.
“I asked him if he was going to be at home. He knew of the fireplace servicing and said he was going to be there.”
At the same time, she said the door to 1505 opened. She said an Asian male she didn’t recognize answered the door, but didn’t seem to know what she was talking about. Nor did another Asian male, she testified. But another man, she said, made an appearance and said he was aware of the planned work on the fireplace.
Soon after, Mr. Schellenberg’s nephew, who was working with his uncle, came up, she said. There was a discussion about servicing 1505. “I had mentioned to Ed that I didn’t think it would be a good environment for Zac to go into, because the young men were of questionable behaviour and I just felt that Zac was young and it was not a good environment for him,” she said.
She said Mr. Schellenberg was going to work on 1505 while his nephew did the Mohan unit as well as another.
Mr. Schellenberg worked on 1507, and Ms. Carothers locked up the unit as they left.
As Ms. Carothers headed for the elevator, she last saw Mr. Schellenberg heading for 1505 – the final unit he was supposed to service in the tower before they moved on to another area of the complex. He was expected to call Ms. Carothers when he was done.
Standing by the elevator, she heard him knock on the door. “[I] heard someone reply, ‘Just a moment.’” She said she heard the door open. And then she left in the elevator.
Within hours, her husband and fellow manager, Norman, found six bodies on the floor of 1505. Mr. Schellenberg had been shot twice in the head.
Unit 1505 had frequent visitors at all hours of the day, often staying for just a few minutes, some of them driving away in expensive cars, Tracy and Norman Carothers told the court earlier.
“The number of people coming and going frequently – we have experience seeing other drug transactions on the property,” said Ms. Carothers. “It became familiar to us.”
Mr. Mohan’s mother told reporters outside the court it was exasperating that staff in the complex knew about such illicit activity, but no action was taken to head it off. “It exploded on my family and my son was stolen because of that.”
Accused in the case are Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnson, both 29, and Michael Le, 28. All three men have entered not-guilty pleas and the trial is expected to last at least a year. The case is being heard by a judge without a jury. James Bacon is also charged in the case, but facing trial at a later date.