Jonathan Styres might have been hunched over – or even on his hands and knees – when he was hit by one of the two fatal gunshot blasts that killed him, a forensic pathologist testified at Peter Khill’s trial on Monday.
Mr. Styres, a 29-year-old father of two from Ohsweken, Ont., on the Six Nations reserve, was trying to steal a pickup truck out of Mr. Khill’s Binbrook, Ont. driveway when he was shot twice by the homeowner around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4, 2016.
One shot hit him in the chest. The other went through the back of his right shoulder.
Mr. Khill, 28 – who has pleaded not guilty – does not deny he fired those fatal shots. It will be up to the jury to decide whether he did so intentionally.
The case has been compared to the polarizing trial and acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley, who was charged with the point-blank shooting of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man.
On Monday, the jury heard from two forensic pathologists about the shotgun blast injuries that killed Mr. Styres – testimony that marked the end of the Crown’s evidence in the trial.
Dr. Allison Edgecombe performed the autopsy on Mr. Styres back in February, 2016, and Dr. Jane Turner provided a subsequent consultation report last year, based on the autopsy report, crime-scene photos and other police evidence.
While either of the shots could have killed Mr. Styres, Dr. Edgecombe could not say definitively what order they came in. Dr. Turner testified that internal bleeding caused by the chest shot suggests that shot came first.
The chest shot, the jury heard, struck Mr. Styres on an angle, travelling through his body from left to right, front to back, on a “slightly downward” angle.
Based on Dr. Edgecombe’s analysis, including the shape of the wound and the trajectory of birdshot pellets scattered inside Mr. Styres’s body, the shotgun was fired from four to seven feet away.
The jury has previously seen blood-spatter evidence that suggests Mr. Styres was fully or partly turned toward the truck when he was struck – which Dr. Turner testified is “in keeping” with the pattern of his chest wound.
The shoulder shot struck the outside of Mr. Styres’s back right arm, exited through his armpit and re-entered into his right chest cavity.
Because the pellets from this shot also travelled downward through his body, the pathologists determined Mr. Styres would have had to have been lower to the ground than his shooter when he was hit.
One possibility is that he was hunched over, Dr. Turner said.
“Another possibility is that he was on his hands and knees,” she said. “And that is suggested by the presence of the mud on his hands and knees and tops of his shoes.”
In cross-examination of Dr. Turner on Monday, Mr. Khill’s defence lawyer Jeffery Manishen suggested that the mud could’ve gotten onto Mr. Styres’s knees earlier, when he was breaking into the truck.
She agreed that is also a possibility.
The jury has heard a 911 call from that morning, in which Mr. Khill tells the dispatcher the man had raised his arms as if to point a gun at him when he fired the two shots.
“He put his hands up − not like … to surrender, but his hands up pointing at me,” he said. “It was pitch black, it looked like he was literally about to shoot me, so I shot him. I mean, I didn’t want to lose my life.”
Mr. Khill and his girlfriend, Melinda Benko, had been asleep in their house that morning when they were woken by loud bangs in the driveway around 3 a.m.
Looking out the bedroom window, Mr. Khill saw that his truck’s lights were on.
Ms. Benko – who married Mr. Khill last month, and is six months pregnant – recalled on the stand last week that her husband grabbed his shotgun and headed outside to investigate. Frozen, she remained inside and watched from the window. When she heard gunshots, she called 911.
“He went out with a shotgun … because we were both scared from the noise we heard,” a frantic Ms. Benko tells the dispatcher in the 911 call. “He just wouldn’t shoot unless something was seriously wrong … so that’s why I’m terrified.”
Toxicology tests, the jury heard, showed Mr. Styres had traces of cocaine, hydromorphone and cannabis in his system when he was killed. Dr. Edgecombe noted that the drugs did not cause his death.
The trial will resume Tuesday, when Mr. Manishen will begin the defence’s case.