Dean Christopher Roberts during his trial in Nelson in 1995. Townsman file photo.

Judge dismisses DNA request in Cranbrook triple murder case

Dean Christopher Roberts must appeal directly to the federal Minister of Justice, reads ruling.

A Cranbrook man convicted of murdering his wife and two children nearly 25 years ago has lost his bid to the B.C. Supreme Court to have DNA evidence released for forensic testing

However, the ruling from Justice Arne Silverman shifted the responsibility of evidence disclosure to the federal government, and notes that an application must be made directly to the Minister of Justice.

Dean Christopher Roberts had petitioned the court for access to DNA evidence that went untested as part of a triple murder case in Cranbrook in 1994. In order to apply for a ministerial review, Roberts needs new and significant evidence to present within his application.

READ: Petition requests DNA evidence in 1994 murders

Justice Silverman determined Roberts was asking the wrong question in his petition, noting that instead of asking whether the Minister will order DNA testing, Roberts needed to determine whether DNA that was not available for testing during his original trial is deemed a new matter of significance.

“That is a decision for the Minister, as is the question of what she considers relevant in making that decision,” Justice Silverman wrote. “It is inappropriate for this Court to offer advice as to what examinations or testing the Minister should or should not carry out during that process, or what the ultimate conclusion of her inquiry should or should not be.”

Last year, Roberts applied for the release of evidence used to convict him in 1995 in order to build a case for a ministerial review.

Following his trial, Roberts was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for the deaths of his wife and two children. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility for 25 years.

An appeal of his conviction was dismissed in 1997.

Triple murder case shakes Cranbrook

The convictions stemmed from a house fire that occurred in July 1994.

Roberts’ wife was discovered in the master bedroom, however, an autopsy revealed her death was caused by strangulation.

Two of the boys were rescued by neighbours and firefighters; however, one died several days later.

Additionally, two days after the house fire, the body of another son was found up in what is now known as the Community Forest. An autopsy revealed his cause of death was also by strangulation.

During the trial, Roberts testified he was at a friends house when the fire broke out.

Roberts, who confessed to the murders in a ‘Mr. Big’ operation, later recanted and claimed his innocence, noting there was no physical or forensic evidence linking him to the murders.

Roberts launched his petition seeking the release of evidence for DNA testing last March, asking the Crown for numerous items that include a cigarette butt, hair and fibre samples, rope, along with the entire RCMP biology case file.

Roberts intends to make an application for a ministerial review on the grounds of miscarriage of justice, which means he needs to present fresh exculpatory evidence, according to his application.

However, Roberts argued that he cannot present new evidence that would need to be included in his application for a ministerial review without first having forensic testing of the evidence.

Justice Silverman determined in Roberts’ case that it is solely the determination of the Minister of Justice to order that untested DNA evidence be forensically examined.

“The process set out in the [Canadian Criminal] Code for Ministerial review, is available to the petitioner,” Justice Silverman wrote. “Part of that process permits the Minister to order DNA testing in circumstances where she considers it appropriate to do so.”

Just Posted

Seeing double, the trials and tribulations of twins

BIG READ: Three Vancouver Island mothers share their experiences with multiple births

Paving complete, lines coming to the Malahat this week

$34 million safety project is 95 per cent complete with hope to relieve traffic congestion between Victoria and Nanaimo

UPDATE: Missing 77-year-old Barbara Munroe found safe

Shawnigan Lake RCMP are asking public to help find woman

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Rain and high winds to hit Vancouver Island this afternoon

Thursday and Friday to see downpour of 20 to 50mm and high winds on Vancouver Island

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

‘I’m no quitter’ on climate change issues, McKenna says at G7 ministers meeting

David Suzuki says if McKenna believes what she’s saying, she too should quit

VIDEO: Inside an eerily empty mall in Canada

Only seven of 517 retail spaces are open for business as the grand opening postponed to next year

B.C. wildfires burned large areas affected by mountain pine beetles: Experts

The mountain pine beetle epidemic affected more than 180,000 square kilometres in B.C.

Tens of thousands without power following tornado in Ottawa region

Hydro Ottawa says more than 170,000 customers were without power early this morning

BALONEY METER: Do Liberal policies mean a typical family is $2,000 richer?

MPs took to Twitter to talk how ‘typical’ Canadian families have more money due to Liberal policies

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Most Read