About 12 hours after Crystal Dawn Elk died in hospital, the man accused of killing her was calling her names and claimed she’d attacked him.
For the first part of his interrogation by two Brandon police officers, Cameron Douglas Burnett had either sat quietly or chatted pleasantly about a variety of topics.
But about 45 minutes into the interview, he raised his voice and poked his finger into the table — he called Elk a "filthy whore" and claimed that she’d taken a swing at him.
"I didn’t know if she had a knife, she reached for something," Burnett said.
Burnett, 53, is on trial for second-degree murder in relation to the Nov. 1, 2011, death of Elk, 37.
The trial began in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday. Witnesses have described how Elk got a call at her Brandon home from her mother-in-law, Carol McKay.
McKay, it seemed, had gotten into some kind of domestic dispute with her partner, Burnett.
Elk, her two daughters and one daughter’s boyfriend went to the couple’s home in a basement suite of 310 Dennis St. to help and found McKay outside.
A confrontation ensued outside the home between Elk and Burnett when he tried to pull McKay back towards the home, Elk’s daughter testified.
That daughter, and her boyfriend at the time, said Burnett stabbed Elk, who staggered and fell to the ground.
Elk was pronounced dead at hospital at 2:16 a.m from a stab wound to her heart.
Brandon police officers testified that Tactical Response Unit members entered Burnett’s apartment and arrested him around 6:20 to 6:30 a.m. after repeated attempts to contact him within the suite failed.
Police entered the bedroom to find McKay, unharmed, lying next to Burnett on the bed.
On Thursday, Crown attorney Jim Ross played a video recording of Burnett’s interrogation by police.
During that interview, Burnett tells detectives his residence is in Carievale, Sask., but his work as a self-employed arborist meant he travelled back and forth between Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
He chats with detectives about the subject of his work — trees — and about hockey and football.
But he doesn’t tell the officers what happened outside his home, repeatedly telling them "no comment" or that he had nothing to say at that time because his lawyer had advised him not to talk.
But the BPS detectives persist — they tell Burnett they seek the truth and closure for Elk’s family, and that this is his chance to tell his side of the story. They tell him he seems to be a good guy and they can’t understand how he wound up in this situation.
As one detective begins to ask questions about the events leading up to the stabbing, Burnett begins to open up.
He says there’d been an argument with McKay over how her children treated her, and he went for a walk for a "timeout." He returned to find McKay outside in the cold and tried to take her back into their apartment to take her medication.
Burnett picks up on one detective’s suggestion that Elk was aggressive and interfering.
"You said that Crystal was aggressive then, well that’s what she was," Burnett says, claiming that Elk swore at him and accused him of not taking care of McKay.
Then, about 45 minutes into questioning, Burnett raises his voice and repeatedly pushes his finger into the table in the interview room.
"She’s not my favourite, she’s not Carol’s favourite. She’s a filthy whore," Burnett says.
He says Elk had attacked him by swinging her hand in his face as though she meant to scratch it.
Elk "reached for something," Burnett says, and he didn’t know whether she, or the teens she’d brought with her, had a knife or weapon.
The interrogation, however, ends with Burnett declining to comment further.
The trial continues today.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 24, 2014