The trial has begun for a man facing a second-degree murder charge in the 2017 death of a man at a south Nanaimo apartment.
John Albert Buchanan was arrested on Sept. 13, 2017 after Richard Steven Sitar was found dead at Harbour View Manor on Nicol Street two days previous. Buchanan’s trial began this morning, Oct. 19, at B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo.
Leanne Mascolo, co-Crown counsel, told Judge Robin Baird that Buchanan has given numerous versions of what happened the day of the murder, which she said are false, not supported by other evidence and intentionally fabricated.
Sitar, a known drug user who also dealt with stolen property, died from multiple blunt force trauma to his head, said Mascolo. The murder scene saw significant amounts of blood from the wounds and in a splattered pattern and it appeared Sitar received the wounds while sitting on a couch in his living room.
Buchanan and Sitar knew each other, with the accused often seen at the victim’s apartment, said Mascolo. Surveillance footage showed Buchanan arriving at the apartment at about 6:16 p.m. the night of the murder on a bicycle, wearing a distinctive bright green T-shirt.
The video shows Buchanan entering the building, taking an elevator to Sitar’s second-floor apartment and entering at 6:21 p.m. Mascolo said footage shows Sitar’s wife returning home and trying unsuccessfully to gain entry into the apartment. The door was locked, as she had forgotten her key, and she subsequently left the building. A few minutes later, Buchanan is seen exiting the apartment, down a stairway, carrying bags and items he didn’t have on his arrival.
Sitar’s wife returned 20 minutes later, with a neighbour, and gained access to the apartment, discovering Sitar seriously injured.
Surveillance footage from the Balmoral Hotel on Haliburton Street, where Buchanan went after exiting the apartment, shows the accused stopping beside a dumpster and leaning a covered item against the fence, said Mascolo. He picked up the item took it out of the camera’s view, appearing a few minutes later without the item, she said.
According to a toxicology report, Sitar had high and toxic levels of methamphetamines, methadone and fentanyl in his system, Mascolo told the court.
A search warrant was executed on Sept. 14 for a backyard of a property on 150 Nicol St., where Buchanan had been residing.
The trial is scheduled to run until Nov. 25. Michael Munro is serving as defence counsel and Catherine Hagen is also representing the Crown in the case.