Dean Christopher Roberts during his trial in Nelson in 1995. Townsman file photo.

Judge dismisses DNA request in Cranbrook triple murder case

Dean Christopher Roberts must appeal directly to the federal Minister of Justice, reads ruling.

A Cranbrook man convicted of murdering his wife and two children nearly 25 years ago has lost his bid to the B.C. Supreme Court to have DNA evidence released for forensic testing

However, the ruling from Justice Arne Silverman shifted the responsibility of evidence disclosure to the federal government, and notes that an application must be made directly to the Minister of Justice.

Dean Christopher Roberts had petitioned the court for access to DNA evidence that went untested as part of a triple murder case in Cranbrook in 1994. In order to apply for a ministerial review, Roberts needs new and significant evidence to present within his application.

READ: Petition requests DNA evidence in 1994 murders

Justice Silverman determined Roberts was asking the wrong question in his petition, noting that instead of asking whether the Minister will order DNA testing, Roberts needed to determine whether DNA that was not available for testing during his original trial is deemed a new matter of significance.

“That is a decision for the Minister, as is the question of what she considers relevant in making that decision,” Justice Silverman wrote. “It is inappropriate for this Court to offer advice as to what examinations or testing the Minister should or should not carry out during that process, or what the ultimate conclusion of her inquiry should or should not be.”

Last year, Roberts applied for the release of evidence used to convict him in 1995 in order to build a case for a ministerial review.

Following his trial, Roberts was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for the deaths of his wife and two children. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility for 25 years.

An appeal of his conviction was dismissed in 1997.

Triple murder case shakes Cranbrook

The convictions stemmed from a house fire that occurred in July 1994.

Roberts’ wife was discovered in the master bedroom, however, an autopsy revealed her death was caused by strangulation.

Two of the boys were rescued by neighbours and firefighters; however, one died several days later.

Additionally, two days after the house fire, the body of another son was found up in what is now known as the Community Forest. An autopsy revealed his cause of death was also by strangulation.

During the trial, Roberts testified he was at a friends house when the fire broke out.

Roberts, who confessed to the murders in a ‘Mr. Big’ operation, later recanted and claimed his innocence, noting there was no physical or forensic evidence linking him to the murders.

Roberts launched his petition seeking the release of evidence for DNA testing last March, asking the Crown for numerous items that include a cigarette butt, hair and fibre samples, rope, along with the entire RCMP biology case file.

Roberts intends to make an application for a ministerial review on the grounds of miscarriage of justice, which means he needs to present fresh exculpatory evidence, according to his application.

However, Roberts argued that he cannot present new evidence that would need to be included in his application for a ministerial review without first having forensic testing of the evidence.

Justice Silverman determined in Roberts’ case that it is solely the determination of the Minister of Justice to order that untested DNA evidence be forensically examined.

“The process set out in the [Canadian Criminal] Code for Ministerial review, is available to the petitioner,” Justice Silverman wrote. “Part of that process permits the Minister to order DNA testing in circumstances where she considers it appropriate to do so.”

Just Posted

Brush fire breaks out near Taylor Arm Park

Fire forces partial closure of Highway 4 west of Port Alberni

Rumoured Justin Trudeau vacation sparks contention in Tofino

“I personally hope that people will just leave him alone, frankly.”

Diesel-dependent Hesquiaht First Nation receives $500,000 for hydropower project at Hot Springs Cove

New plant at Ahtaapq Creek expected to decrease diesel consumption by about 76 per cent.

Inside the music: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Big Read: VIMF in the Comox Valley exemplifies the spirit of an Island summer music festival

Campfire ban coming into effect across West Coast

The Coastal Fire Centre says bans will begin on Wednesday

BC Games: Day 2 comes to an end

Hundreds of medals have been handed out at the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Brush fire breaks out west of Port Alberni

Fire forces partial closure of Highway 4 heading to Ucluelet and Tofino

Accident on Vancouver Island after artillery gun rolls down hill and damages taxi

Witness says accident happend about 1 p.m. Saturday; RCMP investigating

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

Most Read