A Crown prosecutor says an Alberta financial adviser built a pipe bomb in his garage, wrapped it as a Christmas present and left it on the doorstep of a disabled client.
Anders Quist told a jury in his opening address Monday that Brian Malley wanted Victoria Shachtay dead. The man had lost all of her money and had resorted to giving her cash out of his own pocket, Quist said.
"He was going into debt to keep her going," the lawyer said. "He killed her to cut his losses."
Malley, dressed in a suit and tie, stood in court and pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, causing an explosion and sending a person an explosive device.
His lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, called the charges "horrible and heinous" and told the jury someone else was out to get Shachtay or her family.
Shachtay, a 23-year-old single mother, died instantly when she opened a box inside the green-and-gold gift bag in her apartment in Innisfail, 30 kilometres south of Red Deer, on Nov. 25, 2011. She had been sitting in her electric wheelchair at a dining-room table.
The blast shattered a window, blew holes through the ceiling and walls and turned other items in the house into debris the size of confetti.
Her live-in caregiver had been in the home but was not injured in the blast. Shachtay's seven-year-old daughter had gone to school.
Seven years earlier, when Shachtay was 16 and pregnant, she was paralyzed in a car crash. Left a quadriplegic, she didn't lose her baby and, when she later delivered the child, named her Destiny.
Court heard Shachtay received a $575,000 court settlement in 2007 because of the accident. She then turned to Malley, a family friend, to help her invest the funds.
Malley, 57, invested the money, along with another $200,000 he advised Shachtay to take out as a loan, Quist said. But instead of helping her savings grow, Malley lost it all.
He kept making payments to Shachtay — $44,000 worth — but from his own accounts.
Quist told the jury that much of the evidence to be presented during the trial will be circumstantial. No one saw Malley build or deliver the bomb.
But DNA left on a piece of paper taped to the gift that had Shachtay's name written on it is "consistent" with Malley's DNA, the prosecutor said.
He added that other evidence shows that Malley owned or purchased some of the parts used to make the explosive — a piece of galvanized steel pipe about 15 centimetres long, smokeless gunpowder, an end cap, a light switch, a lantern battery and tiny light bulbs.
Aloneissi said his client was an avid hunter who also did home renovation work, so he had reason to have some of those supplies.
The defence lawyer argued money wasn't a motive. Many people lost investments due to market fluctuations in 2008, said Aloneissi, who added that Malley also promised Shachtay's mother when she was dying of cancer that he would help take care of her daughter.
"If Mr. Malley decided to take pity on Victoria Shachtay, is that a reason to then kill her? Wouldn't he just stop paying?"
Aloneissi told the jury that after Shachtay picked up the package at her door, she set it aside and went to her stepfather's home. She told him about the present, delivered a month before Christmas, and he reacted with fear.
"His response was, 'Don't open it. Call the police,"' said Aloneissi.
"In his mind, he thought it was a bomb. Why would he say that? What does he know?"
Shachtay went home and didn't take his advice, said Aloneissi. The bomb was rigged to go off as soon as it was opened.
Aloneissi suggested someone else who had "extreme hate" for Shachtay or her family sent the bomb.
He said some of her relatives had serious addiction issues and didn't have much money.
The real killer, he said, wanted to send a loud message: "Don't mess with us."