Jury to deliver verdict in Campbell River murder trial

Linda Mitchell is accused of stabbing Christopher Warren in the back

As Christopher Warren lay dead or dying from a deep stab wound to his back, his common-law wife Linda Mitchell can be heard yelling obscenities during the 911 call made by his daughter.

“She’s screaming. She’s using foul language,” said Crown prosecutor David Sissons, in closing arguments to the jury, in B.C. Supreme Court in Campbell River.

The jury of eight women and four men began deliberations Thursday following Wednesday’s closing arguments by the Crown and defence counsels.

After a four-week trial, they must decide if Mitchell is guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty due to self-defence or reasonable doubt. The jury may also consider the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Mitchell, currently free on bail, limped into the courtroom, using a metal cane for support. Her long and wavy dirty blonde hair was pulled back from her face and tied with a pink elastic. She wore black snow boots, jeans and a black jacket, and listened quietly during the closing arguments.

“There are two theories,” said defence lawyer Doug Marion. “The fact is…the Crown doesn’t know. At this stage in the trial we’re supposed to know and we don’t.”

April 2, 2010

At trial, Mitchell testified she did not remember stabbing Warren, only recalling a “flash of metal.” In his summation, Marion claimed that a drunken Warren was beating on Mitchell’s head with the telephone handset when he was somehow stabbed in the middle of the back with a kitchen knife.

It was almost 4 p.m., on April 2, 2010, when the blade was plunged 9.5 centimetres deep into Warren’s lung. He died shortly later in the apartment he shared with Mitchell at 645-9th Ave.

The Crown contends Mitchell has never admitted to striking the “killing blow” and has repeatedly dodged questions about that fatal day by using “selective recall.”

“She doesn’t want to be responsible for doing such a terrible thing,” Sissons said. “She is prepared to lie to mislead you…her credibility is a serious issue.”

On Wednesday morning, Marion told the jury that Mitchell “saw stars and was not herself” after Mitchell beat her with the phone. As a result, she may have suffered a concussion which, combined with heavy alcohol consumption over two straight days, led to her fragmented memory of the events.

Mitchell was arrested at the apartment and spent six days incarcerated in the local RCMP cells. During this time she testified that she suffered from severe headaches, but was never attended to by a doctor.

The Crown countered, indicating Mitchell never once asked for a doctor and never showed signs of any head trauma. She was attended to by a paramedic, and Sissons suggested her headaches could have been the result of a hangover, plus she was not taking her regular medication.

After her arrest, Mitchell also told an investigator that the blood found on her hands was her own when, in fact, DNA evidence showed it was Warren’s.

The Altercation

What led to the altercation was not disputed. Both Mitchell and Warren drank regularly – he had a blood-alcohol level of .235 at the time of death – they had been drinking beer, and perhaps moonshine, early that day when she became enraged.

Mitchell could not find her bank card or keys and accused Warren of losing them. In a fit of anger, she called his mother who advised Mitchell to contact the proper authorities to advise them of the missing items.

But immediately after the call, the mother contacted Warren’s adult daughter, Erin, and asked her to go to the apartment to check on the couple.

When Erin Warren arrived with her roommate, Nikki Barton, they found Warren bleeding profusely and near death. They also saw Mitchell come out of the bathroom.

She started yelling at them and wanted the two women to leave. But Erin could not find the phone to call 911 and asked Mitchell where it was. Mitchell replied her father had hit her in the head with the phone so she should ask him, referring to her partner who was bleeding to death.

Erin wound up using a neighbour’s phone and on the 911 recording, Mitchell is clearly heard raging and screaming obscenities. Barton also testified that Mitchell knew that Warren had been stabbed in the back.

Police arrived at the apartment within minutes and found Mitchell in a much different state. She was curled up in a fetal position on a bed and appeared in a daze.

That’s when, Sissons suggested, she started using the “can’t remember” story.

“This is not someone ‘in a daze. She wants the girls out of there and she doesn’t want to do anything to help at that point,” he said.

In the few minutes between the mother’s phone call, the girls arriving and their 911 call, Marion said that Warren began beating Mitchell with the phone and had backed her into a corner in the kitchen.

“He’s drunk, he’s angry…she’s terrified,” said Marion. “She’s drunk, she’s panicking…she’s entitled to defend herself.”

He later added, “This is not a murder trial. At its highest mark, it’s a manslaughter trial.”

But Sissons painted a different picture for the jury. He pointed to inaccuracies between Mitchell’s statements to police and her testimony during trial.

“She did not plan this, but she intended to stick the knife in his back at that moment,” he said.

Sissons also demonstrated how it would be impossible for Warren to self-inflict the fatal wound – a single penetration to the middle of his back with the point of the blade facing upwards. Warren never had any defensive wounds and neither did Mitchell, but there were signs of a struggle in the kitchen and the phone itself was found covered in his blood.

“In short, there’s no evidence of self-defence,” Sissons told the jury. “This was a vicious act and I’m asking you to hold her accountable.”

Watch for news of the verdict at www.campbellrivermirror.com