Joey Whalen’s family sobbed as they sat and listened to disturbing details of the brutal and fatal beating he suffered at the hands of Kenny Green.
There were countless blows to his head and body, resulting in multiple lacerations to his forehead, scalp, lips, chin, eyelids and ear. He was covered in bruises and abrasions and had three fractured ribs.
Green has admitted he did it because he thought Whalen — who sold drugs for him — was going to “rip him off.”
Several of Whalen’s family members shook their head in disbelief as Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves read the agreed statement of facts in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Tuesday afternoon.
For the first time since Whalen died March 17, 2013, they heard how and why Green did it.
They were clearly shaken.
They were also upset by Green’s sudden change of plea earlier in the day.
Just after the crowd filed into Courtroom No. 4 — under tight security — for what was supposed to be the start of Green’s four-week trial Tuesday morning, Steeves and defence lawyer Randy Piercey revealed that there would be a resolution.
Green — who was originally charged with second-degree murder — pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The mandatory sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with no eligibility of parole for at least 10 years. There’s a wide range of sentences for manslaughter, but it’s usually much less than sentences for murder.
“This is f--king bullshit,” one man said as he stormed out of the courtroom after hearing the change of plea.
When proceedings broke for the morning, Whalen’s family told reporters outside the courtroom that they had no idea Green would be changing his plea.
“Absolutely ridiculous!” one woman said.
“The justice system sucks!” another woman said.
“A man’s life is worth nothing,” a third woman said.
When the case resumed in the afternoon, Steeves told the judge he would have told the family, but said he wasn’t advised of the change of plea until shortly before proceedings were set to begin.
“Fair enough,” Justice William Goodridge said. “Sometimes these things happen.”
But it’s what happened on March 13, 2013, at 8 Tessier Place in the capital city that was the lion’s share of proceedings Tuesday.
According to the facts, Green drove to the house just before 10 a.m. that day.
Derek Tulk, who lived in the house, told police Green came to the door with another man, John Hussey. Tulk said when he went upstairs to get money for Green, he heard Whalen come in. He then heard an altercation and stayed upstairs out of fear. He said he heard someone say, “No Kenny! No Kenny!” during the fight.
When Tulk went downstairs, he found Whalen face down on the floor. He was badly injured, but still breathing. He said Green was alone in the living room and was covered in blood as well. Police later found hundreds of blood spatters on the walls. Tulk said Green went towards Whalen again, but he pushed him back. Green then left.
Tulk said he couldn’t find his cellphone. About 10 minutes later, he left the house and went to a neighbour to ask them to call an ambulance.
Tulk said in the day before the incident, Green had been acting paranoid because of his cocaine use.
When police asked him why he had not been candid with them in the beginning, he said he thought if Whalen had survived, he would have dealt with the matter without police.
When Hussey spoke to police, he said he went to the house to meet Green, who hired him to paint his house in Mount Pearl. Green arrived shortly afterwards and the two went in the house. He said Whalen got there a few minutes later and wanted to talk to Green. Hussey said he waited outside the house to give them privacy.
He said when Green came out minutes later, he told Hussey he had been in a fight. The two men then left in Green’s rented Dodge Avenger.
On the way to Green’s house, they were stopped by a police officer, who recognized Green. She noticed abrasions on Green’s knuckles, but didn’t see blood. She issued him a ticket for failing to produce his licence. The men then proceeded to drive to Mount Pearl.
When Green was arrested March 18, 2013, he said to officers, “All this for a shot in the head?”
Later, when officers showed Green pictures of Whalen’s injuries, he said, “That guy got back up. I didn’t do all that. That’s f--king nuts.”
However, during his time in custody at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, he made a number of comments to corrections officers.
Green told one officer that Whalen said he was “hurting” and was going to “rip him off,” which was what caused the fight. Green said, “Joey Whalen was the king of sucker punches” and that he saw a shiny object in Whalen’s waistband and that he thought Whalen was going “to take him out.”
Believing he could be robbed, Green admitted, he struck Whalen several times with his fists. He admitted the force was excessive.
Blunt force trauma to the head caused Whalen’s brain to swell, which resulted in his death days later in hospital.
Lawyers will present their agreed recommendation on sentencing on Friday.