Murders most foul

Captain’s Quarters shooting, coworker stabbing and sentencings top crime stories of 2015

Published on January 3, 2016

From a shocking shooting at a local bar and a stabbing involving coworkers, to sentencings in other deadly cases, murder dominated crime stories in 2015 in this province.

None was more shocking than the fatal shooting last fall at Captain’s Quarters Hotel on King’s Bridge Road in St. John’s.

Just before midnight on Oct. 3, a masked man with a gun walked into the bar and demanded cash from the female bartender.

Larry Wellman — who, with his wife was among the handful of customers — was shot when he tried to intervene as the robber was making his escape.

Paramedics worked on Wellman for 40 minutes before taking him to hospital, but the 63-year-old died en route.

For a full week, the community was on edge as the killer remained at large. Still photos from surveillance video didn’t show much, as the man was masked, had his hood up and was wearing gloves.

On Oct. 10, police arrested Brandon Phillips and charged him with first-degree murder. His case is still before the courts and a preliminary inquiry is scheduled for April.

Another disturbing killing happened Jan. 11 in Mount Pearl.

Raymond Stacey was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his coworker, Clifford Comerford.

Stacey, then 23, allegedly stabbed Comerford, 41, inside the minivan taking them to work at a chicken farm.

Police and paramedics were called to Greenwood Crescent, off Topsail Road in Mount Pearl, where the van had stopped.

Comerford died an hour after being rushed to hospital.

Stacey is in custody, with a inquiry set for August.


Trevor Pardy

On Nov. 20, following an emotional sentencing hearing at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s, Trevor Pardy was given a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years — the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder.

Since Pardy has already spent four years in jail, he will be eligible for parole in 21 years. After serving 15 years, he can apply to reduce the parole eligibility.

The 38-year-old shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, 30-year-old Triffie Wadman, on Oct. 1, 2011, on Boggy Hall Place in St. John’s. He was arrested following a four-hour standoff with police.

On Dec. 16, 2015, his lawyers filed an appeal, arguing the judge erred in instructing the jury. No date has been set yet to hear the appeal.


Philip Pynn

On Feb. 20, after a lengthy trial in St. John’s, Philip Pynn was given an 8 1/2-year prison term for the 2011 shooting death of his friend, Nick Winsor.

With 4.5 years’ credit given for  time already spent in custody, it left four years on his term.

Pynn was charged with second-degree murder after the July 2011  accidental shooting in a garage behind a house on Portugal Cove Road. The jury found Pynn guilty of manslaughter.

Co-accused Lyndon Butler was found not guilty of second-degree murder and was free to go.


Nicholas Layman

The high-profile case of Nicholas Layman is nearing an end and all indications are the 20-year-old will be found not criminally responsible for the shocking stabbing of a boy on a Topsail soccer field on Sept. 25, 2014.

Layman is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

He ran onto the field with a knife, stabbed the 11-year-old several times in the neck and back, and then took off. He was found a short time later at his parents’ house and taken into custody.

Both the defence and Crown presented submissions supporting a not-criminally-responsible finding in early December at provincial court in St. John’s, based mainly on the testimony of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jasbir Gill.

Gill has been assessing Layman since last year at the Waterford Hospital and said Layman had been battling psychosis for years and was hospitalized in the past — his first time, in November 2013. She said his schizophrenia symptoms worsened leading up to the stabbing.

Judge Colin Flynn will make his decision on Jan. 20.


Steven Neville

Steven Neville of Paradise went from being a convicted murderer to an accused murderer this year.

Neville had been in custody in Dorchester, N.B. since February 2013, when a jury at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court found him guilty of second-degree murder and attempted murder for stabbing Doug Flynn to death and trying to stab and kill Ryan Dwyer during a 2010 street fight in Paradise.

Neville had been sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility to apply for parole for 12 years.

However, in early November 2015, his convictions and sentence were overturned by the country’s highest court.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Neville be granted a new trial after an appeal was argued in front of a five-member panel in Ottawa.

The panel concluded the trial judge should have directly answered the jury’s question regarding the clarification of “to kill” versus “to murder.”

The panel also said the written instructions on “of provocation” were confusing.

Neville is due to be arraigned early in the new year.

• • •

Three years after his arrest, the case of a suspected serial rapist is still ongoing.

In December 2015, Sofyan Boalag had his trial set again. This time, it’s scheduled to begin May 31.

It had been set three times before, but each time was postponed due to issues Boalag had with his previous lawyers (Jeff Brace is his fourth lawyer).

Since Boalag’s arrest in December 2012, his lawyers have made more than 50 appearances in court.

Boalag is charged with multiple violent sexual assaults in the capital city in 2012.

He is accused of sexually assaulting five women and one teenage girl. Boalag, originally from Algeria, has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges.

Jerome Kennedy — who stepped away from politics in 2014 to return to practising law — was appointed amicus curiae for  Boalag’s case in September 2015.

• • •

In a case that had even lawyers in tears, Ronald Thistle — who was driving drunk when he hit and killed 27-year-old Nicholas Coates in the summer of 2013 — was sentenced to two years, less a day.

The 67-year-old pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death as a result of the collision, which happened Aug. 16, 2013.

At 11:12 a.m., Thistle was making a left turn onto Kenmount Road from Polina Road when he pulled into the path of Coates, who was driving his motorcycle east on Kenmount Road. It caused a T-bone collision. Coates hit the side of Thistle’s pickup, was thrown off his motorcycle and landed on the pavement.

Coates was rushed to hospital, and succumbed to his injuries later that day.

The sentencing hearing in early April 2015 included tearful victim impact statements read by Coates’ family members.

• • •

Robberies were rampant in 2015, with several making the news almost weekly.

While knives seemed to be the preferred weapon in armed robberies, the use of syringes and needles were on the rise.

One of the more high-profiled robberies included the case of Christopher Snow.

The 25-year-old committed several break-ins, including three home invasions — two involving forcing the homeowners out of bed and taking them to an ATM machine — was  sentenced to eight years in jail.

He pleaded guilty to a string of break-ins, robbery charges and court breaches, along with counts of possessing stolen property.

• • •

There were no shortage of fraud cases in 2015, with several accused appearing court.

Some of the more noteworthy cases included:

• Lee Escott —  the former national bowling champion who was a provincial executive member pleaded guilty in December 2015 to forging cheques to swindle thousands of dollars from the association in 2014. The facts of the case will be presented in court  Feb. 10.

• In December 215, contractor James Dwyer, 55, was sentenced to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty to multiple fraud charges. He swindled customers, many of them elderly, out of thousands of dollars.

• In April 2015, Wanda Goodyear, 49, was sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence for stealing over $32,000 from the Conception Bay South Figure Skating Club. She had served as president of the club from 2010 to 2012.

• In January 2015, William J. Parsons — a lawyer for the once-celebrated real estate development company Myles Leger — was sentenced to a three-year jail term. He pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 for mishandling mortgage funds.

The fraud, dating back a decade, covering 28 properties and $1.3 million, where mortgages were not properly discharged.

• In February 2015, fraud charges were stayed against four former senior managers of Hickman’s Equipment. William Parsons, the company’s former vice-president; Hubert Hunt, the former general manager; John King, the former sales manager; and Gary Hillyard, the former chief financial officer had all been charged with defrauding the now-defunct business. The charges were levelled against the men a decade after the John Deere dealership went bankrupt in 2002.


Other noteworthy stories included:

• Jason Bruce Collins — sentenced to six-month jail term after showing up to Unified Family Court with a chainsaw.

• Anthony Crocker — former corrections officer was given a suspended sentence for assaulting an inmate at the St. John's lockup. He was put on probation, including 100 hours of community service.

• Jake Long — 19-year-old sentenced to three-year prison term for stabbing a man on George Street.

• In February 2015, the Department of Transportation and Works and the City of St. John’s were fined $60,000 for their role in the death of a senior engineer on a St. John’s highway. Both were found guilty of seven counts each of violating Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations by failing to do all they could to ensure the safety of their employees. The charges were laid after Joseph English, an engineer with the Department of Transportation and Works, was struck and killed by an SUV on July 5, 2011, on the Outer Ring Road.

• Dustin Crocker — the 39-year-old of Torbay, who stole money from a boy’s birthday cards, received a one-year suspended sentence in August 2015. It meant no jail time for having taken cards containing roughly $250 from a birthday gathering for a young boy, Parker Crowe, at Axtion Climb in Mount Pearl in April 2015.

• In a surprise move, in September 2015, Pamela Goulding was appointed the new provincial court chief judge, replacing her husband, Mark Pike.