A witness at a murder trial said she was left in shock by an angry comment the accused made about Crystal Dawn Elk in the weeks prior to her death.
The woman testified that she was taken aback when Cameron Douglas Burnett said he would put Elk “in the ground.”
“I’d never heard anybody talk like that,” Christilee Beswitherick said. “I was very shocked. But at the time, I didn’t think much of it.”
Burnett, 53, is on trial before a jury in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on a charge of second-degree murder.
Elk, 37, was stabbed to death outside 310 Dennis St. in the early morning of Nov. 1, 2011.
As the trial started on Monday, Crown attorney Jim Ross said jurors could expect to hear that Burnett had a long-standing hatred of Elk.
Ross said it’s his position that the killing was deliberate rather than an act of self-defence.
The trial continued throughout the week, and two witnesses testified that Burnett stabbed Elk on the morning in question.
Witnesses said Elk had gone to the Dennis Street home to help her mother-in-law, Carol McKay, who’d been in a domestic dispute with Burnett. McKay and Burnett lived together at the address in a basement suite.
On Thursday, jurors viewed a videotaped statement Burnett made to police in the hours following Elk’s death.
During that interview, Burnett referred to Elk as a “filthy whore.”
He told police that Elk had taken a swing at him — apparently in a bid to scratch his face —and that he didn’t know whether she, or others with her, were armed.
However, Burnett didn’t tell police what he may have done in response, citing his lawyer’s advice not to talk.
It’s the Crown’s assertion that Elk was unarmed at the time of the confrontation.
So far, no witnesses have placed a weapon in her hand at the time. The boyfriend of Elk’s daughter testified that Elk was unarmed.
The trial continued on Friday with testimony by Beswitherick, who was dating one of McKay’s sons at the time.
Beswitherick described a conversation she had with Burnett two weeks to a month prior to Elk’s death.
Elk, who was the partner of another of McKay’s sons, had supposedly had an affair.
Beswitherick said Burnett got upset, angrily said he didn’t like Elk and said he was going to “put her in the ground” next to the man she’d supposedly had the affair with.
That man had happened to pass away previously.
Beswitherick said she was shocked by the comment, but otherwise didn’t think much of it at the time.
Following Elk’s death, she told police that Burnett had felt “pure animosity” toward Elk.
During cross-examination by defence lawyer Bob Harrison, Beswitherick acknowledged that the first time she told anyone about the “in the ground” comment was on Nov. 17.
She explained that police hadn’t asked her to expand on her previous “pure animosity” comment.
Beswitherick and another witness, Blair Mitchell McKay, also described a gathering at the Dennis Street apartment on the evening leading up to Elk’s death.
Blair McKay — who is Carol McKay’s son — was there with Elk, his long-term partner.
The Halloween evening started peacefully.
But Blair McKay said there was tension when Burnett — who had been smoking marijuana with the other men — accused him of taking his pipe.
Burnett also got mad about the noise and told Carol to ask their guests — her children, their cousins and their friends — to leave.
The guests left and Blair McKay said he walked Elk home. He stayed out that night and learned of Elk’s death the next morning.
Other witnesses have testified that Elk returned to the Dennis Street home after getting a call informing her that Carol Mckay and Burnett had been fighting or arguing.
It was after Elk returned to the home with the intent to help McKay that she was stabbed, witnesses said.
Blair McKay also described a fight he had with Burnett three months prior to Elk’s death.
During that fight, Elk had punched Burnett as she tried to pull him off Blair, who then struck Burnett in the head a number of times with a piece of wood.
Elk’s daughter has testified that that previous dispute was brought up as Elk and Burnett argued just prior to Elk being stabbed.
The Crown rested its case on Friday and the trial is set to resume on Tuesday.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 25, 2014