Before Abbotsford’s Ed Schellenberg was murdered in a Surrey apartment building in 2007, a co-manager of the building suggested he service the fireplace in suite 1505 instead of his young co-worker nephew because of the type of people she saw coming and going from the unit.
Tracy Carothers took the stand Tuesday at the trial of three men accused of first-degree murder and conspiracy in connection to the deaths of six men in the Balmoral Tower apartment building on Oct. 19, 2007. The execution-style mass murder that took place in suite 1505 has since become known as the Surrey Six.
Schellenberg, 55, who was servicing fireplaces in the building on the day of the murders, was considered to simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as was 22-year-old Chris Mohan, who lived next door.
The four other victims – Edward Narong, Ryan Bartolomeo, and brothers Corey and Michael Lal – had ties to the drug trade and were known to police.
Cody Rae Haevisher, Matthew Johnston and Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le are currently on trial for the murders.
Carothers told Justice Catherine Wedge that she often saw many “young Asian males” and “scruffy” people coming and going from suite 1505. She said she told the owner of the unit – who didn’t live there but rented it out – that she thought his renter was selling drugs.
On the day of the murders, she accompanied Schellenberg to the 15th floor of Balmoral Tower to provide access to suites where no one was home. She let him into 1501 and went to canvass other residents to see if they’d be home to let a fireplace serviceman in. One neighbour answered and said she’d be there and Chris Mohan answered 1504 and said he’d be home.
When Carothers went to 1505, an Asian male answered and said he didn’t know what she was talking about. Then a second man came to door and said the same thing. Finally, a third man came to door and said he’d be home.
Schellenberg’s nephew arrived from another floor and his uncle told him to service the fireplaces in suites 1504 and 1508.
Carothers testified that she advised Schellenberg that 1505 might not be a good environment for his young nephew because of the people who lived there.
She then watched Schellenberg head down the hallway to 1505.
“I heard him knock on the door and I heard someone reply ‘just a moment’.”
That was the last time she saw Schellenberg.
She went to her own suite and after about 45 minutes, became concerned she hadn’t heard from Schellenberg. She sent her husband, Norman Carothers, looking for him.
Norman was the first witness to take the stand at the trial at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday.
He said after his wife asked him to find Schellenberg, he went to suite 1505. He heard music inside the apartment and knocked loudly on the door several times, but there was no answer. He then knocked on the Mohan’s suite next door. There was no answer.
He looked in other areas of the building for Schellenberg and checked his van outside, to no avail.
Norman then returned to the suite 1505. He opened the door and saw six bodies on the floor. At first glance, he thought it might be a gas leak and propped the door open for air flow, running to a man he thought was Schellenberg and pulling him by the feet to drag him out.
Then he looked around the room and realized it was something more sinister. He saw pools of blood by the heads of two of the motionless bodies. He took the wrist of one man to check for a pulse but found no signs of life, he testified, wiping tears as he recalled the grisly scene.
Norman told the court he left the suite without touching anything else, and told a neighbour and his wife to call 911.
Tracy Carothers said she first called only for an ambulance, but then called back to request all emergency services.
“Police, hazmat came. It got crazy,” she testified.
On Monday, the first day of trial, Crown prosecutor Mark Levitz delivered his opening statements, contending that Corey Lal was the intended target on the day of the murders, and that the other five victims were killed to eliminate any possible witnesses.
Photos were shown in court of the victims lying in two groups of three, side-by-side in pools of blood, their heads covered with hoods.
Levitz alleged Johnston, Le and Haevischer were all part of the Red Scorpions gang who were aiming to control the local drug trade. Corey Lal was a rival drug trafficker who was operating on their turf, said Levitz, and when he didn’t pay up when demanded to do so by Jamie Bacon (who is also charged in the Surrey Six case, but will be tried separately), Bacon and Le ordered Haevischer, Johnston and a third person who can’t be identified due to a publication ban, to murder Corey Lal.
All the victims were executed, said Levitz, each suffering at least two gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and neck. Levitz said two handguns were used in the murders, and 19 shots were fired.
Eileen Mohan, mother of victim Chris Mohan, has saved up her holiday time for the past five years so she can attend the trial.
The Mohans had only moved up to 15th floor from the 14th weeks earlier. After hearing the testimony from the building managers on Tuesday, she expressed frustration that the apparent drug dealing of her next door neighbours wasn’t stopped earlier.
“Everybody knew about it and they sat on it and it exploded on my family. My son was stolen because of that,” said Mohan.
Haevischer and Johnston both face six first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of all six victims, while Le has one first-degree murder charge related to Corey Lal’s death. All three also face one conspiracy to murder charge for Corey Lal’s death. All three pleaded not guilty Monday to each charge.
Jamie Bacon will be tried separately at a later date on first-degree murder and conspiracy charges for Corey Lal’s death. Sophon Sek is also charged with manslaughter in connection with the case and has a court date in January.