It was standing room only in the hallway at Kentville provincial court April 28 as two Berwick-area men charged with the first-degree murder of a homeless man from Berwick appeared before a judge.
Kyle David Fredericks, 25, and Daniel Wayne Surette, 26, are charged with the first-degree murder of Harley Gordon Lawrence in Berwick on Oct. 23, 2013. Lawrence died when the bus shelter he was sleeping in on Commercial Street was set on fire.
Fredericks and Surette were charged on April 25 and appeared in Windsor provincial court that day for arraignment. They were remanded into custody over the weekend to appear in provincial court in Kentville on April 28 for plea and to set a date for a preliminary inquiry.
Security in the court was tight, with sheriffs searching everyone entering. The mother of one of the accused men was seated in a wheelchair and was visibly overcome.
With the remaining caseload for plea day, it was standing room only in the hallway outside the courtroom. Only those appearing before the judge were allowed inside the court until family and media were permitted to enter for the Lawrence matter, about an hour after court began.
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- Brother of man burned to death in Berwick bus shelter: 'It won’t ever be over'
Crown attorney Jim Fyfe requested a no contact order against the two accused men for individuals named on a lengthy list of potential witnesses.
Defence lawyer Tim Peacock, who represented Fredericks, said he hadn’t had a chance to review the list with his client. Defence attorney Ken Greer, who represented Surette, said he had received a brief disclosure package but hadn’t received a copy of the list.
After the lawyers had a chance to review the list with the accused, Judge Alan Tufts granted the no contact order. Some of the potential witnesses named on the list are apparently incarcerated.
“You will be provided with a list of individuals you are to have no contact or communication with,” Tufts told the two accused.
Both men will remain in custody until their next court appearance on May 26.
Following the court appearance, Harley Lawrence’s brother, Ron Lawrence, said the sense of knowing something is being done about the death of his brother is a big part of the family finding closure. He said it was a difficult wait between the time of his brother’s death and when the RCMP made the arrests.
Lawrence said he spoke with the RCMP on several occasions but he tried to give them space and as much support as possible to come to a conclusion.
“I said, right from the get-go, ‘stop your rumours, carry on your lives, let the RCMP do their job,’ and they did a very good job,” Lawrence said.
He added that he hoped the court system would be as fast and efficient in dealing with the matter as the police were.
Open Arms pastor John Andrew told media he was there to support the Lawrence family, to be a friend and a pastoral presence.
“I’m trying to keep my focus on the Lawrence family,” he said.
When asked what it was like to see the accused in court, Andrew replied, “it made it real.”
He said he felt a sense of pity for the accused and Andrew said he also feels bad for their families.
Open Arms has an outreach program in Berwick and Andrew has fond memories of Harley Lawrence. Andrew said Harley needed a place to stay and they realized he had some “paranoia issues.” Harley quickly bonded with some members of the community; however, “mental health issues surfaced.”
Andrew said light conversation was fine but, touching on Harley’s situation, “he’d have choice words and tell me to buzz off.”
Andrew said they arranged a meeting between Harley and his siblings, but Harley seemed to become more withdrawn after the meeting took place.