A police officer examines a murder scene at Harbour View Manor in September 2017. Richard Sitar was found dead within an apartment at that site and John Albert Buchanan was subsequently charged with second-degree murder in relation. (News Bulletin file)

A police officer examines a murder scene at Harbour View Manor in September 2017. Richard Sitar was found dead within an apartment at that site and John Albert Buchanan was subsequently charged with second-degree murder in relation. (News Bulletin file)

Accused in 2017 bludgeoning death in south Nanaimo awaits fate

Final submissions complete in B.C. Supreme Court trial of John Albert Buchanan

The accused in the 2017 bludgeoning death of a Nanaimo man in the city’s south end is set to learn his fate as final submissions have been entered in the murder trial.

John Albert Buchanan faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of Richard Sitar, who was found in his Harbour View Manor apartment on Nicol Street the evening of Sept. 11, 2017. He died of blunt-force trauma to the head. The trial began Oct. 19 at B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo, and closing arguments concluded today, Nov. 19.

In summarizing the prosecution’s case, Catherine Hagen, Crown counsel, said that it relied on direct and circumstantial evidence, including a green T-shirt seized from Buchanan that had a “DNA blood-pattern stain” that matched Sitar’s. There was also closed-circuit camera footage of Buchanan entering Sitar’s apartment at the time before and after the murder was said to have taken place.

The Crown alleges a bat was used to commit the crime, which has never been recovered.

Sitar and Buchanan knew one another. While Buchanan had made statements to police that they were friends, there is evidence of ill-will, according to the prosecution. On the day of the murder, they were arguing about stolen property and the victim’s use of drugs that Buchanan had paid for, Hagen said.

In June 2017 Sitar was said to have bear-sprayed Buchanan at the McDonald’s on Nicol Street in Nanaimo. Sitar is also said to have threatened to harm Buchanan’s partner.

While a toxicology report revealed methamphetamine, fentanyl and methadone in his system, Sitar suffered scalp lacerations, with underlying skull fractures and one brain contusional bruise on the left frontal lobe, Hagen said. Because of the severity of the head trauma, an examiner indicated that likely “death occurred very soon following the blunt force trauma to the head,” based on microscopic examination of tissue.

Buchanan told a person, who can’t be identified due to a publication ban, about the murder, and that person subsequently came forward to authorities, said Hagen. The evidence provided is detailed, corroborated by other evidence, credible and reliable. The witness could only have learned the information from the accused, Hagen said.

Michael Munro, Buchanan’s legal representation, questioned that.

Buchanan had given numerous versions of what occurred the night of the murder, including that the people that murdered Buchanan had gained access to the apartment with a ladder. While video evidence showed Buchanan entering the apartment before Sitar was found, Munro questioned if the balcony door was locked, and wondered if the perpetrators could’ve gained access that way. Hagen said there was no evidence to suggest this.

Surveillance footage shows Buchanan inside of the apartment before or after “when this beating was issued,” but there is doubt whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Buchanan was the perpetrator. The green T-shirt tested positive for Sitar’s DNA, but Munro said there is doubt as there was an “absence of blood splatter” on his client, his clothing or his belongings. In addition, there was no evidence in the apartment that any sort of clean-up activity had taken place.

A date for Judge Robin Baird’s decision is scheduled to be set Monday, Nov. 23.

RELATED: Accused in south Nanaimo beating death told police he didn’t hurt victim

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reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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