Lori Culbert and Neal Hall
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - Rick and Lynn Frey applauded and Cynthia Cardinal had a huge smile on her face as the jury left a New Westminster courtroom late tonight to begin deliberating the fate of Robert (Willie) Pickton.
The Freys have been waiting for this moment since 1997, when their daughter Marnie disappeared; Cardinal since 1999, when her sister Georgina Papin vanished.
Just outside the courtroom, Cardinal said she wanted to capture forever the "happy" feeling she had that a jury was finally deliberating the fate of the man accused of killing her sister.
"You've taken an oath... to render a true verdict according to the evidence," Justice James Williams told them at the end of his four-day address. "We ask nothing more, we are entitled to nothing less."
With that, the seven men and five women picked up their binders full of the judge's legal instructions and walked out of the courtroom. How long they will deliberate is anyone's guess.
The jurors did not look at Pickton as they filed out, but earlier in the day several of them stole glances at the accused killer as Williams gave his address to the jury.
Nearly every day of this long trial, Pickton sat motionless in the prisoner's box, often staring at a blank notepad on his lap. He showed no reaction to the jury leaving the room for the last time.
Outside court, Crown attorney Michael Petrie, who led the seven-person team prosecuting Pickton, said: "We're relieved to be at this stage and it's now in the hands of the jury."
Pickton is charged with killing 26 women. This trial is dealing with six of those counts, and a second trial on 20 counts is expected later.
Many relatives of those victims attended court for the last two weeks to hear the lawyers' closing arguments.
Marilyn Kraft, whose stepdaughter Cindy Feliks is one of the other 20 women Pickton is accused of killing, said she is hopeful for a guilty verdict on the first six.
"I'm encouraged. I think if they come down with a guilty [verdict] it will be the best Christmas present any of us will have," said Kraft. "We're glad the jury is out now and we just hope it's not going to be too long."
Kraft is convinced Pickton will be convicted, "especially on the first three counts," she said. "I think he's a cold-blooded killer."
Both Kraft and Rick Frey called the last two weeks emotionally difficult, as they listened to the evidence that was found on the farm.
"It's been a hard thing to do here, and I'm sure they're going to do it [render guilty verdicts]," Frey said. "A tough couple weeks for everybody, tough ups and downs."
He added that the only time Pickton showed any emotion in court was when evidence arose about violence connected to the missing women.
"He looks like he enjoyed what he did," Frey said.
He said he thought the defence did a good job and appreciated it when defence lawyer Peter Ritchie came up to him, put his arm around his shoulder and thanked him for being kind to the defence team.
"He did a very good job," added Lillian Beaudoin, the sister of Dianne Rock, 34, who disappeared in 2001 and is one of the 20 alleged murder victims to be dealt with at a second trial.
The judge gave the jurors some advice before they started deliberating: do not start out by emphatically declaring their opinions, because that would make it difficult to work together to find consensus.
"Keep an open mind, not an empty head," he said.
Williams said if they couldn't reach a unanimous agreement, he would have to declare a mistrial and a new jury would be assigned to hear the case.
The jury is a mix of older retirees, some middle-aged people and a couple of younger women.
Among them are a bartender, a university student, a retired sawmill worker, a physiotherapist, a retired nurse, a retired security guard, a condominium manager, and a building engineer.
One female juror walked into court today with a large cake, and other jurors with bags of food.
They will deliberate seven days a week, about 12 hours a day, and at night will be sequestered in a New Westminster hotel until they reach a verdict.
They must decide whether Pickton committed the murder of six women: Papin, Frey, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Sereena Abotsway, and Brenda Wolfe.