Residents living near accused killer Jason Michael Holm in the West End said his behaviour became unusual leading up to the Aug. 1, 2020, fatal stabbing of his neighbour, 39-year-old Paul Samuel Whitten.
Holm is charged with second-degree murder and his trial began in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on March 21. If Holm is found guilty, Justice Joel Groves is expected to determine if the accused will be not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder. Holm had been declared unfit, then fit, to stand trial during pre-trial hearings.
Holm is being defended by lawyers Matthew Smith and Marilyn Sandford of Vancouver, while Tim Livingston is prosecuting the case.
Earlier testimony from a Kamloops Mountie heard police were called to a home on Clarke Street in the West End, where Whitten was found with serious injuries. In his last breath, Whitten identified neighbour Holm as the killer. After Whitten passed away with upwards of 30 stab wounds, Holm, 37, was arrested and brought to the Kamloops RCMP detachment.
On Thursday (March 24), court heard several neighbours provide statements about how neighbours in the West End began gathering in a yard during the COVID-19 pandemic to have drinks and play music, as many businesses were closed.
Heather Arcand said Holm and Whitten routinely bought 60-ounce bottles of vodka to add to their coffee each morning and used recreational drugs, but she described them as friends who often had loud arguments, resulting in doors slamming within one of the buildings in the area.
Arcand’s testified that Holm would frequently invite himself into Whitten’s home and overstay his welcome. Arcand, 42, lived in the same building as both men and explained that during the pandemic, many residents of the three buildings in the West End would socialize in the garden to play musical instruments and have drinks, However, she added, many conversations were derailed when Holm arrived.
Arcand said she removed herself from the community as the partying began to increase and the volume of arguments became louder leading into the weekend.
“You can’t consistently roll,” Arcand said, adding Holm previously had used methadone, but it appeared that his treatments decreased before stopping altogether. She said Holm often found relationality between himself and Adolf Hitler, believing the next war was coming, while also having delusions about obtaining a recording deal with rappers Biggie Smalls and Eminem, the former who died in 1997.
Arcand said Holm obtained new tear drop tattoos on his face and a new tattoo on his neck in the days leading up to Whitten’s murder.
“With the drugs that he was doing, the conversations were always a bit off,” Arcand told court, noting Holm’s commentary about Hitler and war began to ramp up approximately two weeks before Whitten’s death.
“He wasn’t even the person we were concerned about the most,” Arcand told court, referring to the escalating partying. “It was Paul.”
While Arcand was away from home, camping with her child on the weekend Whitten was stabbed to death, her friend, Joanna Lopez Hernandez, came to house-sit for her. Lopez Hernandez testified that she played music with Whitten occasionally, but declined to see him if he wasn’t sober.
“Sometimes we would jam all night,” Lopez Hernandez said. “It was just something to do because there was nothing to do with the pandemic [during restrictions).”
Lopez Hernandez said she played music in the garden with two men on July 31, 2020, leaving at about 4:30 a.m. to drive a friend to their home on nearby Dalgleish Drive. When she arrived, she said, police were on site and she was told not to park where she previously had left her vehicle.
David Martin wife Meagan testified they reported Holm to their landlord on July 30, 2020, for walking around the neighbourhood and masturbating while naked, wearing only sneakers and a baseball cap. Martin said he urged his wife to lock the door and keep their children indoors due to the unusual behaviour. He said he reported the incident to police the next day, after working a night shift, but was informed by Mounties that they wouldn’t be able to intervene as the crime was no longer in progress. Martin said he was advised to call back the same day if it happened again.
The trial will continue next week, with additional witnesses and information about medical assessments.