A B.C. Supreme Court judge has found the man arrested in connection with a 2017 bludgeoning death in south Nanaimo guilty of manslaughter, but not guilty of second-degree murder.
John Albert Buchanan was charged with second-degree murder after Richard Sitar was found dead in his apartment near Nanaimo’s downtown in September 2017, but the dynamics between the two men were a consideration for Judge Robin Baird, who found Buchanan guilty of the lesser charge.
The trial began Oct. 19 in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo.
According to Crown, Buchanan had gone to the apartment to pick up drugs previously purchased, but which Sitar had already consumed.
Evidence was presented depicting Sitar as someone who bullied and abused Buchanan, including a June 2017 incident in which Sitar pepper sprayed the accused at a McDonald’s restaurant on Nicol Street and a separate incident when Sitar threatened to kill Buchanan’s girlfriend while brandishing a gun.
Expert witnesses testified that a bat or a similar instrument was likely used to kill Sitar, with the coroner stating blunt force trauma was the cause of death. However, police were never able to recover any such item.
Also part of Crown’s case was testimony from someone familiar with Buchanan and whose identity is protected by a publication ban. The person said that Buchanan detailed the murder, including the use of a bat, which Buchanan said he subsequently bleached and buried.
Video evidence showed Buchanan entering, then leaving Sitar’s apartment the day of the incident.
In rendering his judgment, Baird said that Buchanan committed a grave offence, but re-emphasized “the morbid relationship of subservience and dependence between [the two] and the history of violent abuse.”
Baird said he was satisfied that the details of the last meeting between the two “comprised one torment too many” for Buchanan and he did not go to Sitar’s apartment with violent intentions.
The anger Buchanan felt was “understandable and justified,” said Baird, and he was likely “in need of drugs” and “upset about not getting any.” Nevertheless, Baird said Buchanan acted “inappropriately and disproportionately, but understandably to a sufficiently wrongful act or insult.”
Buchanan’s recollection of events changed numerous times during the investigation and included a theory that someone entered the apartment via a ladder, through a window. Baird discounted that, saying there was no evidence of that.
The judge revoked Buchanan’s bail and he is back in custody.
A pre-sentence report has been ordered by the judge and a date for sentencing is expected to be set on March 1.
Leanne Mascolo and Catherine Hagen, co-Crown counsels, and Michael Munro, defence counsel, did not wish to comment.