Allan Schoenborn, worn out after 10 days as a fugitive without food or water, allegedly told a hunter who found him in the woods that he had murdered his three children with his bare hands to save them from "a life of humility."
Judging from what followed, it was clear he meant humiliation. "Do you know what it's like to be ridiculed?" Mr. Schoenborn allegedly said.
The allegations came yesterday in testimony at Mr. Schoenborn's murder trial in B.C. Supreme Court, prompting the accused to heckle the witness: veteran Merritt-area hunter and guide Kim Robinson.
"I'm Allan Schoenborn. I did it. I killed my kids,' " Mr. Robinson recalled the fugitive telling him on April 16, 2008, as the two men talked in the woods on the outskirts of Merritt, B.C. The spot was about two hours by foot from the home where the children's bodies were found by their mother earlier in the month.
Darcie Clarke had left them in the care of Mr. Schoenborn, her partner of 15 years. Despite his diagnosed paranoia, the fact they were estranged and tensions that made it impossible for them to live together, she considered Mr. Schoenborn a good father who would never harm their children.
"I asked how he killed them. He said with his bare hands," Mr. Robinson told Mr. Justice Robert Powers, who is hearing the case without a jury. Mr. Schoenborn, 41, glared at Mr. Robinson from the prisoners' dock, occasionally heckling him with such ferocity that a pair of court sheriffs got up from their seats and moved in on the accused.
In the woods, Mr. Robinson had a rifle, and Mr. Schoenborn was clearly intimidated by his large, aggressive dog, the hunter said. Mr. Robinson said he found the confession so bizarre that he wished someone had been with him to talk through what he was hearing. "Want to have that talk now?" Mr. Schoenborn angrily barked from his position in the court.
Mr. Robinson had voluntarily been searching the woods for the prime suspect in the deaths of his three children - a crime that drew national attention to Merritt, an otherwise quiet community of about 7,000 people, located 270 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
Despite his efforts, Mr. Robinson did not actually find Mr. Schoenborn, the trial has been told. It was Pat McCoy, a neighbour of Mr. Schoenborn's and acquaintance of Mr. Robinson's, who was out for a walk when he recognized the dog and coat of the fugitive, who was curled up on the ground near a fence.
Because Mr. McCoy did not have a cellphone, he retreated and flagged down a passing Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson said Mr. Schoenborn at first said his name was "Kendall" and that he was a bricklayer headed for Kamloops. Mr. Robinson said he called an RCMP constable he knew, and told him about the discovery. The officer told Mr. Robinson to check for Mr. Schoenborn's trademark bald spot. That led Mr. Schoenborn to identify himself.
The Crown has said 10-year-old Kaitlynne was stabbed to death, and left on a mattress in her room. Brothers Cordon, 5, and Max, 8, were either smothered or strangled and left on a couch in the living room. Mr. Schoenborn has pleaded not guilty to three charges of first-degree murder. The Crown alleges he committed crimes as part of a plan to secure revenge on his wife.
Mr. Robinson agreed with defence lawyer Peter Wilson's suggestion that the fugitive was "skin draped over bones" when found, and the hunter said he gave the fugitive two bottles of water and some cigarettes. Mr. Robinson said he found Mr. Schoenborn "lucid and coherent."
He said Mr. Schoenborn asked if the hunter was going to kill him. Mr. Robinson testified that he would if he had to, and that he would have killed him if he had seen him killing the three children.
Outside the court, Mr. Robinson said he expected Mr. Schoenborn was agitated in court because "the truth hurts," and chuckled off the heckling. "Everybody's a tough guy when they're held in a little hole like that, right?"