Chilliwack shooting victim fearful after attempted murder charges dropped
Jeff Karpes has both physical and mental reminders of the night just before Christmas 2012 when he was hit by two bullets in the chest near McCammon elementary school in Chilliwack.
“I have PTSD so bad that I don’t even know where to begin to get treatment,” he told the Times in a phone interview July 25 from an undisclosed location.
That was a day after attempted murder charges were dropped against Aaron Douglas.
“My head is disastrously messed up. My chest holds lead in it.”
It was a sudden and surprising turn of events when the charge against Douglas was stayed mid-trial on July 24 in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack.
“Based on the evidence that had gone before the court we decided there was no substantial likelihood of conviction,” Crown lawyer Lori Stevens said of the decision.
Karpes is frustrated with the decision by the Crown, but he isn’t totally surprised by the outcome.
“He [Douglas] has always maintained he can get away with anything,” he said. “Nobody will testify against him and get a conviction.”
Douglas—who was in custody for 19 months and never asked for a bail hearing in that time—was sentenced to time served, three years probation, and ordered to have no contact with Karpes and the Crown’s other witness Theresa Conlon.
Conlon is the mother of one of Douglas’s children, and is currently married to Karpes. She testified in court on the first day of the trial, July 21.
Karpes and others have told the Times that Conlon also briefly dated Deano Paus who was murdered in 2010, a crime that IHIT is still investigating.
“I realize this gentleman has had a rough life but he has this mentality that if he has ever touched it, it belongs to him,” Karpes said. “I don’t know where that comes from.”
Outside the courthouse Thursday, Douglas’s first cousin Roxanne Peters and two of his friends awaited his release.
“He’s going to straighten out,” Peters said of the troubled Douglas, who has a long criminal record with convictions on weapons and drug charges.
Peters said Douglas’s mother died of a drug overdose when he was just four years old, and his father also struggled with substance abuse.
“He’s been dealt a lot of hard cards. Sometimes it’s how you deal with life; you go one way or you go the other.”
Gunshot residue found on Douglas’s clothing was found to be inconclusive evidence that he fired the gun on the day of the shooting.
The case against Douglas rested primarily on the witness testimony of Karpes who was hit by two bullets in the chest while sitting in a vehicle on Dec. 23, 2012.
Karpes spoke through tears in BC Supreme Court on July 22, and explained how, as he lay there, he called 9-1-1.
“I told them I was shot,” he said. “I told them that Aaron had shot me and that I just wanted my kids to know that I loved them.”
Both Conlon and Karpes testified that they received threatening phone calls from Douglas in the months leading up to the shooting.
But defence lawyer Ken Beatch went at Karpes hard, painting the shooting victim as a criminal himself. A former drug dealer, Karpes was working as a bootlegger providing an illegal after-hours alcohol delivery service at the time of the shooting.
He was making a delivery to an address on the Skwah First Nation reserve when he was shot.
Two days before, Karpes’ vehicle was shot up as he made a delivery to a Cleveland Avenue home. He escaped that incident with minor injuries from broken glass.
Beatch’s successful cross-examination involved addressing inconsistencies with Karpes’ various statements to police and to the court about the Dec. 23 shooting.
Beatch got Karpes to all but admit that he did not even see a person at all after the Dec. 21 shooting, even though he described someone to police.
“The RCMP had so much circumstantial evidence . . . that just meant nothing because I blew it,” Karpes said after the trial. “Do you know how traumatic it was for me to be on that stand?”