The trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 10 into the second-degree murder charge faced by Gerald Dolman in the killing of Robert Splitt May 3, 2016. Dolman pleaded guilty at the last minute. (Progress file)

Surprise guilty plea in 2016 homicide downtown Chilliwack

Gerald Dolman’s second-degree murder trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday

In a surprise move on the day his trial was scheduled to begin, Gerald Leslie Dolman admitted he killed Robert Splitt on May 3, 2016 in downtown Chilliwack in broad daylight.

The cold-blooded murder of Splitt — who was known among friends as “Igor” — took place in front of dozens of witnesses in the downtown Chilliwack Save-On-Foods parking lot.

READ MORE: Gerald Dolman charged with murder in Chilliwack stabbing

In court Tuesday, the 65-year-old Dolman leaned back in the prisoners’ box with his arms crossed as his lawyer Chris Terepocki informed the BC Supreme Court justice about the last-minute plea.

Dolman had a shaved head with a trim white goatee, black-rimmed glasses and was dressed in prison issue red sweatshirt and pants. He said nothing more than “yes, your honour” when asked if he understood that by pleading he was admitting to the essential elements of the Crown’s case, and “guilty” when asked how he wanted to plea to the one count of second-degree murder.

Outside there was a sign in the front window of a car parked in front of the courthouse that read: “Bring Justice for Robert Splitt.”

The issue at trial was not going to be whether or not Dolman killed the 49-year-old Splitt, but whether the killing constituted second-degree murder or manslaughter.

WARNING: Some might find the content of this video disturbing

Dolman is scheduled back in court Nov. 27 to be sentenced. Second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence. The only matter up for argument is parole eligibility, which is in the range of 10 to 25 years at the judge’s discretion.

Crown counsel Paul Blessin told the court that he and Dolman’s lawyer Chris Terepocki were only about two years apart in their positions on parole eligibility.

The May 3, 2016 incident downtown shocked and, for a time, confused the community as to what was going on. Dozens of witnesses were in the busy parking lot that day at approximately 3:30 p.m. when a cyclist was first struck.

Focus was quickly turned to the injured cyclist what seemed like a simple hit-and-run, until two cars collided near the south entrance to the plaza. A verbal altercation escalated to a physical one resulting in the stabbing.

There was a woman in the car with Splitt, likely the source of the disagreement between the two men, according to sources close to Splitt.

That woman, Rebecca Burns, has a lengthy criminal record and in an unrelated matter was sentenced on May 8 to nine months jail and three years probation for one count of robbery from June 5, 2016.

READ MORE: Daylight stabbing death preliminary inquiry begins in Chilliwack court


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.