Sechelt man accused of murdering his mother goes on trial

A Sechelt man used an exercise bar to beat his mother to death, a prosecutor said at the opening of the accused’s trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Donovan Michael Penner had had a difficult relationship with his mother, Esma Lachance, 67, prior to the October 2014 slaying in the victim’s home, said Crown counsel Marion West.

Penner, who was 48 years old at the time of the murder, had been living with his mother and his mother’s husband, David Lachance, on and off for about two or three years, and on the last occasion was living with them for several months, she said.

The Sunshine Coast man, who entered a plea of not guilty to one count of second-degree murder, and his mom both suffered from mental health issues and Penner also suffered from alcohol addiction, West told B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Crossin.

“Ms. Lachance and her son argued frequently,” she said.

David Lachance, who had been married to his wife for about 10 years, is hearing-impaired and used a hearing aid, but had taken it out before going to bed that night, said West.

He fell asleep and when he woke to use the bathroom, he noticed that his wife was not in bed with him, she said.

“He went to the living room of the trailer to look for her. When he returned to the bedroom, he looked into the room being used by Donovan Penner and he found Donovan Penner naked and crouched over the body of Esma Lachance. She was also naked and lying facing down.”

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David Lachance called 911 and turned his wife over and noticed that she had suffered significant head injuries and that there was blood throughout the room, said West.

West said that she expected the evidence would overwhelmingly prove that Penner killed his mother by striking her repeatedly in the head with a 10-pound dumbbell.

She said that given the accused’s actions before, during and after the murder, and due to the severity of the attack, the accused intended to kill his mother.

There was also evidence that prior to the attack, the accused had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol, and therefore the main issue at trial was whether Penner had the necessary intent for murder, said West.

The prosecutor said that witnesses called by the Crown will include a corrections officer who had referred Penner to mental health officials out of concern for the accused’s substance abuse issues and possible underlying mental health issues.

A social worker who saw Penner is also expected to testify that she met with the accused on the afternoon before the slaying, she said.

After West finished her opening statement, a hearing to determine the voluntariness of a statement given by the accused to police following his arrest was held.

RCMP Cpl. Kevin Mayes, the first witness called by the Crown, testified that after he arrived at the scene and was shown the body, he later found Penner outside the trailer with his knees up to his chest.

“He was shaking and appeared to be in shock.”

The trial is expected to run two weeks.

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