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Brother of slain homeless man hopes court case moves swiftly

Berwick, N.S., held a vigil in October for the late Harley Lawrence, who had been the town’s only homeless person.

Nancy Kelly/KingsCountyNews.ca

The brother of a homeless man whose death touched a nerve in a small Nova Scotia town says he hopes the case of two young men accused of murder moves swiftly through the courts.

Ron Lawrence said seeing the two men appear in court Monday was an emotionally charged experience after waiting for months for the RCMP to conclude their investigation into the death of his brother Harley.

"It was touching to see them and their expressions … to see the person accused of doing something to my brother. It was very emotional," he said outside provincial court in Kentville.

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"It's been a long few months."

Harley Lawrence, 62, was found dead Oct. 23 in a burned out bus shelter in Berwick, a town in the province's Annapolis Valley about 120 kilometres northwest of Halifax.

Daniel Wayne Surette, 26, of Berwick and Kyle David James Fredericks, 25, of nearby Berwick District, were charged Friday with first-degree murder.

Ron Lawrence, 51, sat quietly through the proceedings with his brother Bruce as the two accused appeared in court. One woman wept quietly during the hearing.

The two accused in the case were remanded into custody until their next court appearance on May 26. They have not yet entered a plea on the allegations against them, though that could come as early as the next appearance. They don't have lawyers yet.

"The RCMP have done their job," Lawrence said outside court.

"It got this far and it's going to continue on through the courts … and hopefully it will be fast and efficient."

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Lawrence, a truck driver and delivery man for a soft drink company, has supported the police investigation and often urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

He said he hopes the court process will finally answer painful questions, including how exactly his brother died.

Police have released few details about the case, including the cause of death.

Local residents said Harley Lawrence began using the bus shelter for refuge as temperatures dipped last fall.

Pastor John Andrew, who runs a shelter and outreach centre in Kentville, said the death has shaken Berwick, a town of 2,500 people about 20 kilometres west of here, as many in the community know the families of the two accused.

"This is a lot of hurt this whole thing has brought on one community," Andrew said.

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He said he knew Harley Lawrence and tried unsuccessfully to convince him to stop living on the street.

"I tried to encourage him to live in apartments and not on the street," Andrew said. "I think he found me mostly to be a nuisance. … He would tell me to buzz off."

He said Harley Lawrence did work for local residents, including a brief stint at the outreach centre Open Arms, but avoided lasting relationships with others.

Andrew said he once tried to set up a meeting between Harley Lawrence and his siblings to let him know that his mother had died.

"That seemed to put him into a deeper hole and more within himself," Andrew said.

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