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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Four-year sentence for fatal Maple Ridge stabbing


05:43 |

 

A drunken argument between two men on their way to an after-hours bash at a Hells Angels clubhouse led to the fatal stabbing of one and a four-year sentence for the other. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ronald McKinnon handed Coquitlam's Andrew Leach the jail term Monday after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing James William Ball on Sept. 25, 2009. Leach has already been in jail for more than two years, so McKinnon credited him with double-time and said the sentence equalled an eight-year term. McKinnon addressed Ball's family in the New Westminster courtroom before pronouncing the sentence. "I can only express the court's sympathy for their very grave loss. Nothing done today is going to lessen their burden or make things easier. I read the very poignant victim impact statements which underscore the loss and pain this offence has occasioned to these innocent victims," McKinnon said. "I doubt that I am the first person to observe that this death was completely avoidable which makes it all the more tragic." Crown prosecutor Andrew Blunt read an agreed statement of facts and played a grainy, dark video of the fatal stabbing behind a Safeway on Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge. Leach, Ball and a third man had been drinking at Club Climax in Maple Ridge until it closed at 2 a.m. They all decided to head to a nearby HA clubhouse for an after-hours party in a truck driven by the third man, Blunt explained. During the ride, Ball, 43, and Leach, now 28, began to argue. The driver pulled over behind the Safeway to relieve himself, as the conflict between the two men escalated and they got out of the truck. The Safeway video shows Leach repeatedly stabbing Ball, who is left slumped over a railing on the loading dock. The driver panicked and took off, though later returned for Leach, Blunt said. Ball was not discovered for more than three hours and later died from massive blood loss. McKinnon noted that the injuries to his neck, chest and abdomen wouldn't have been fatal if Ball had received help right away. "It seems apparent that immediate aid for Mr. Ball following his stab wounds would have saved his life," McKinnon said. Instead, Leach was dropped at his Coquitlam condo and learned the next day that Ball had died. The friend present at the crime scene ended up cooperating with police and wore a wire when he later met with Leach to get details of the stabbing. During the recorded meeting, Leach said "because he used a small knife, the wounds should not have been fatal." He explained that he had got rid of the murder weapon and burned his clothes. Leach was originally charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty two months ago to manslaughter. The young father had no criminal history until the stabbing, McKinnon noted. "While one can evoke alcohol as a contributing factor, it does not excuse the crime nor does anyone suggest that it should," the judge said. "Perhaps it stands as a wake-up call to those whose consumption of alcohol tends to deprive them of reason and sense." He said he didn't know what the argument was about, "but it had to be something quite frivolous but made into a big deal because of alcohol consumption."


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