(EDITOR'S NOTE: SooToday wishes to advise that evidence in the Wesley Hallam manslaughter case is graphic and likely to disturb some readers. Discretion is strongly advised.)
It was a Friday evening — January 7, 2011.
The party was a pop-up kind of thing.
30 Wellington Street East was known as a spot to do and deal drugs.
Things were just getting started around 9 p.m.
There was some booze and weed at first.
Invitations started going out by text.
Ron Mitchell was one of the early arrivals — he was there around 9 p.m.
Partygoers started showing up with harder stuff.
A mid-level drug dealer paid a visit.
Someone placed an order with a drug delivery service.
Dylan Jocko, who'd started in the drug trade at age 11, turned up with a freshly stolen television, which he traded for some crack cocaine.
Wesley Hallam made his appearance around 11:30 p.m.
Hallam came in the back door and pushed through the kitchen into the living room, where men were snorting lines of coke.
He was as much as part of the Sault's criminal and drug scenes as the trio that took his life: Ron Mitchell, Eric Mearow and Jocko.
Hallam had access to drugs.
He did some coke at 30 Wellington and contacted his own supplier.
Then, he pulled out his big, double-edged knife and started showing it around.
He showed it to Mearow and Jocko.
It had a swastika marked on it.
Mearow is an Ojibway from Batchewana First Nation.
Jocko's family roots are in Batchewana and also the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation near Renfrew.
The swastika — a symbol of white supremacy and oppression, didn't impress them much.
Jocko, in particular, became agitated by the knife.
Hallam put it back into his clothing.
It was decided to move the coke upstairs away from the crowd, into Eric Mearow's bedroom.
A verbal dispute broke out there between Hallam and Mitchell.
They started calling each other "goof."
In the circles that Hallam and Mitchell move in, goof is not a term of endearment.
Hallam advanced on Mitchell, pushed against his chest.
It escalated into a fight.
Hallam is big and strong and had no problem keeping the upper hand in the altercation.
He punched Mitchell again and again.
Hearing the commotion, Mearow ran upstairs to his bedroom and forced open the door.
It was then that Hallam pulled out his blade.
Mitchell was carrying a smaller, folding knife with a four-inch blade.
Mitchell pulled that out and he and Hallam started swinging their edged weapons at each other.
Jocko then entered the room and moved to disarm Hallam.
Jocko hit Hallam's arm.
Hallam's weapon dropped.
Mearow punched the now-bladeless Hallam in the side of the head.
Mitchell then struck Hallam deep in the left side of the neck with his pocket knife.
This turned out to be the fatal blow.
Hallam's carotid artery and jugular vein were both severed by Mitchell's folder, but there was little initial bleeding.
Partygoers noticed that Hallam seemed a bit wobbly and asked if he was okay.
Hallam replied that he was fine and asked for a beer and a smoke.
But then blood started pooling on the floor and Hallam was unable to stand on his own.
He started to shake badly near the bathroom.
Bystanders peeled back his jacket and saw the fatal stab wound.
There were at least a dozen people in the house but no one called an ambulance.
Hallam was dragged into the bathroom, where he fell unconscious.
He was rolled into the bathtub.
Mearow, high on cocaine, immediately set out to dismember Hallam's body.
He started to search the house for a saw or electric tools.
An electric saw was located.
Mearow and Jocko went to work on their grisly task.
The sound of their saw could be heard throughout the house.
Hallam's head, hands and feet were removed.
The head was placed in a garbage bag and tossed into a nearby dumpster.
Hallam's torso was wrapped in a blanket, driven to Landslide Hill, carried down the slope and deposited in Coldwater Creek.
Three days later, the bare-chested, tattooed torso was spotted by a pedestrian.
Hallam's driver's licence and car keys were found in his pocket.
Medical examination would later determine that he was dead before the indignities were carried out on his body.
The right foot and badly decomposed head were later located in a border refuse processing station in Michigan.
The above narrative was assembled using details from an agreed-on statement of facts submitted yesterday to Justice Ian McMillan by Crown and defence attorneys.
Mitchell, Mearow and Jocko were originally charged with first-degree murder, but were allowed to plead guilty yesterday to the reduced charge of manslaughter.
A joint submission by lawyers indicated that the reduction in charges was sought because of “potential frailties in evidence.”
The lawyers indicated that the accused trio lacked mental capacity to commit murder based on provocation and their level of intoxication.
The trio was convicted of manslaughter and indignity to a human body.
After allowances were made for time already served, and for Jocko and Mearow's aboriginal heritage, all three of Wesley Hallam's killers will now spend less than two years in a provincial jail.
In a victim impact statement delivered yesterday, a young woman who witnessed the events at 30 Wellington described how she's tormented "for not being strong enough to call an ambulance."
People have called her a "rat" and a "murderer" and advised her to kill herself.
She's now terrified at the prospect of Hallam's killers being back on the street within months.
"If they do that to someone they claim is their friend, what would they do to someone who testified against them?"
Meanwhile, Sault Ste. Marie Police Service issued the following statement last night:
Hallam homicide concluded in court
Chief Robert Keetch hosted a press conference at the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service headquarters this evening and made the following comments regarding today's resolution of the Hallam homicide court proceedings.
Earlier today, charges against Ronald Mitchell, Dylan Jocko and Eric Mearow, the accused parties involved in the gruesome murder of Wesley Hallam, were presented before the courts.
They plead guilty to manslaughter and offering an indignity to a human body.
The proceedings brought concluding judgements to one of the most horrific crimes ever committed within this community.
First, I want to extend condolences to the Hallam family on behalf of the members of the police service.
I can’t even imagine the mental pain and suffering you have endured throughout this process.
Nobody should lose a loved one under such circumstances.
The manner in which Wesley’s life ended, and the indignities he suffered, was disturbing to us all, to say the least.
Now that this matter is concluded, I hope that you [Wesley's mother Sandra Hallam] and your family can finally have some peace, heal, and somehow find a way put this horrendous crime behind you.
We will continue to support you as long as you need us.
Next, I would like to convey that we, as a police service, are as disappointed with today’s outcome as is the Hallam family.
To the people of Sault Ste. Marie, I wish to stress that we take our responsibility for community safety and well-being, and our role in investigating crimes that occur within this community very seriously.
The results of this case in no way reflect the work done by police.
The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police; who jointly investigated the Hallam homicide, committed significant resources (both manpower and financial) to conduct a thorough and competent investigation.
Approximately 200 officers were involved, over 200 witnesses were interviewed, and a crown brief in excess of 90,000 pages was compiled; all to support first-degree murder charges.
I would like to publicly recognize the tremendous work which was conducted by all (officers and civilians) assigned to this case.
Your compassion, commitment and dedication have not gone unnoticed and are not properly reflected in a conviction for manslaughter.
To all the witnesses who had the courage to come forward, provide testimony and participate in the judicial proceedings, thank you.
I know this has taken courage and been a difficult process for you.
Throughout the entire investigation, preliminary inquiry and pre-trial motions, members of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service and our local Crown Attorney’s office maintained a well-established, effective and valued relationship which was based on mutual respect and a shared responsibility for a thorough investigation and prosecution in the Hallam murder.
The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service was committed to the upcoming trial of all three accused, and prepared to dedicate significant resources to support it.
However, once a criminal charge is laid and the matter is before the courts, it becomes the responsibility of the Ministry of the Attorney General.
We were not aware of any discussions regarding a proposed resolution or a reduction of charges for the Hallam homicide, nor did we have any input.
Again, today brought a conclusion to one of the most sensational and horrific cases in Sault Ste. Marie’s history, and regrettably, a disappointing one.
Any questions regarding the convictions should be directed to representatives of the Ministry of the Attorney General.