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Tyler Hikoalok murder trial set to resume Tuesday as case turns to defence

Hikoalok’s defence team of Michael Smith and Brook Laforest had initially been scheduled to open their case in early October.

Publishing date:

Nov 28, 2022  •  21 hours ago  •  3 minute read

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Tyler Hikoalok was charged with first-degree killing in the 2018 murder of Elisabeth Salm. Photo by www.tr1bemusic.com /Handout Tyler Hikoalok’s first-degree murder trial is set to resume this week after a two-month pause — a rare lengthy break in the midst of a jury trial — with the case now turning to the defence to call its first evidence and testimony.

Hikoalok’s defence team of Michael Smith and Brook Laforest had initially been scheduled to open their case in early October, following the close of the Crown’s evidence against Hikoalok in the 2018 killing of 59-year-old church librarian Elisabeth Salm.

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The reasons for the delay remain shielded by a strict publication ban, with Superior Court Justice Anne London-Weinstein asking the jury not to “speculate” about the delay and to avoid researching the case during the break.

Hikoalok has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in a killing prosecutors described as a “vicious and brutal attack” that left Salm clinging to life inside the Christian Science Reading Room on May 24, 2018. She She was discovered by a colleague hours later. She was taken to hospital and died shortly thereafter.

The Crown concluded its case against Hikoalok on Sept. 29 by presenting the jury a series of admissions drafted in agreement with Hikoalok’s defence team.

The jury was instructed to accept as proven fact that the DNA profile identified on Salm’s body is a positive match with the DNA profile of Hikoalok.

Experts with the Centre of Forensic Sciences linked Hikoalok’s DNA profile to semen found on the victim’s body, and later found Salm’s blood on a shoe and a bracelet Hikoalok wore at the time of his arrest.

The “chain of custody, continuity and integrity” of all the exhibits swabbed from the crime scene, from Salm’s body and those seized from Hikoalok during his arrest were also admitted as fact.

Video surveillance showing Hikoalok on Laurier Avenue near the reading room on the day Salm was killed was also admitted as fact, as Hikoalok is seen walking toward the building’s front entrance at 9:14 a.m. that day, then leaving through a separate exit at 10:21 a.m.

Prior to the break, the jury was instructed to accept as fact the “continuity and accuracy” of that video surveillance footage, along with video evidence showing Hikoalok arriving at the Debbie Campbell Learning Academy at 440 Albert St. about 40 minutes later.

According to the Crown’s case, presented to the jury over the trial’s first three weeks by Assistant Crown attorneys Brian Holowka and Lisa Miles, Hikoalok had changed his clothes and into shorts and a T-shirt by the time he arrived at his old school.

His former teacher at the alternative school downtown said that he had recently cut his hair.

Hikoalok’s jeans and the “Tribe” branded hoodie he was seen wearing in the first video were never located or recovered during the investigation, Miles told the jury.

Several school officials testified at trial and noted “nothing out of the ordinary” with Hikoalok or his demeanour when he showed up at the academy that day. He He attended classes at the school before he was 18 years old, and then he decided to leave the program.

Hikoalok was first identified as a suspect in Salm’s killing by two Ottawa police officers who recognized him after his image — taken from a still of the surveillance video — was circulated among police.

Court heard that Hikoalok was identified by the officers from an earlier interaction. The jury was instructed not to interpret this fact.

Before adjourning the trial, London-Weinstein apologized to the jury for the inconvenience caused by the “longer break”.

Jurors were informed that they could expect a five week trial after the jury was chosen in September.

“This type of adjournment does occur from time to time in our criminal justice system,” London-Weinstein told the jury. “And I can assure you the decision (to adjourn) was not one taken lightly. It was done for an important reason and I ask you not speculate as to what that reason might be.”

Initial instructions to the jury were to return to duty Monday. However, that date has been moved to Tuesday.

ahelmer@postmedia.com

Jury hears the first evidence from Hikoalok’s murder trial. Crown closes its case by releasing DNA results that link Tyler Hikoalok with 2018 sexual assault and the killing of a church librarian.

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