After six hours of deliberations on Tuesday, the jury in the case of Brian Malley returned to court with a guilty verdict.
Malley, 57, was convicted of first-degree murder, causing an explosion of an explosive substance likely to cause serious bodily harm, death or serious damage to property and sending or delivering to a person an explosive device in relation to the death of Victoria Shachtay in 2011.
Malley was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years – an automatic sentence for a first-degree murder conviction. He was also sentenced to serve four years concurrently with the life sentence – two years each for the explosive charges he was convicted of.
The charges stem after an explosion occurred inside Shachtay’s Innisfail residence in November 2011. The incident occurred after a package disguised as a Christmas gift was delivered to the home which RCMP confirmed was the source of the explosion.
Malley was arrested in Red Deer on May 25th, 2012.
Shachtay, 23, was disabled and in a wheelchair from a car collision that happened in 2004. She was also a single mother to a then seven-year-old girl.
RCMP have confirmed Malley had known Shachtay for a number of years and acted as her financial adviser. Shachtay received a settlement of $575,000 after her accident. A $200,000 loan was also taken out on behalf of Shachtay. All of that money was gone within four years. Malley also supported her from his own personal account in the amount of $44,000.
During the course of the six-week long trial, 50 witnesses testified and 100 exhibits were entered.
On Tuesday evening, Malley stood emotionless in the prisoner’s box as the verdicts were handed down. His wife and daughter sat in the front row of the courtroom. A number of Shachtay’s family and friends were also present.
On Tuesday morning, Justice Kirk Sisson read the jury their charge before sending them to deliberate.
“Mr. Malley enters these proceedings and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is the crown who bears the burden of proof and guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said during his address. “Mr. Malley does not have anything to prove.”
Before deliberations began, one juror of the 13 selected was dismissed. Thirteen jurors were initially chosen and sat through proceedings, however, only 12 jurors can deliberate. At the beginning of the trial, Sisson said his reasons for having 13 jurors for the duration of the trial was to ensure the trial moved forward.
In his closing remarks to the jury, defense lawyer Bob Aloneissi said a thousand suspicions do not amount to proof.
“The investigation was skewed against Brian Malley. They don’t have the right person, the investigators shut out all other evidence,” he said. “It’s okay to leave with some suspicions, but it’s not okay to leave with an unclear conscience. The puzzle is defective. We have a huge gap – a gap the size of the Grand Canyon. There is no incriminating evidence – that is the big picture. Don’t lose sight of that.
“Convicting Brian Malley of any of the three charges would be wrong – a travesty of justice. There is every confidence beyond a reasonable doubt that we have proven Brian Malley not guilty of all three charges.”
He added Crown Prosecutor Anders Quist alleged that Malley wanted to “cut his losses” but there are easier ways than to purchase bomb parts and kill Shachtay.
“He could just stop paying. No fuss, no muss,” he said, adding Malley made upwards of $600,000 a year and could make the decision to continue paying or not. “He was under no obligation to keep giving her money.”
In his closing remarks, Quist said there is no reasonable doubt that Malley put together a pipe bomb in the months leading up the explosion that killed Shachtay.
“It was clear that Victoria Shachtay was a difficult client for Brian Malley. She didn’t have a job and she lived off of subsidy. Mr. Malley wanted their relationship to end. He thought she was lazy and annoying. He wanted to get her investment back to book value and then terminate their relationship – but it never got back to book value – it got down to zero. In July 2011, Mr. Malley began building a pipe bomb,” he told the jury. “When all the evidence is considered, there is no reasonable doubt that Mr. Malley killed Victoria Shachtay. I urge you to find him guilty as charged.”
He added Malley’s DNA evidence found on the package delivered to Shachtay’s home is key.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Malley ever went inside Victoria Shachtay’s residence. Mr. Malley’s DNA was found on a piece of tape, paper and cardboard (that was on the package delivered to Shachtay’s residence). I suggest to you that Mr. Malley’s DNA was on the bomb package because Mr. Malley put the package there.”
Meanwhile, the defense opened their case last week and court heard from Malley’s mother in law Frances Poelzer. Malley was ordered to live with her as part of his bail conditions after his release in 2012.
Poelzer said when she heard of the charges against her son-in-law she was, “Shocked that he was charged. I found it difficult to comprehend.”
Poelzer said while Malley stayed at her residence after he was released on bail, she was aware that her home as well as her phones were bugged by the police.
She also testified that she was visited by two RCMP members while staying at her home in Texas who were interested in questioning her.
When asked by Quist about refusing to speak to the police, she said she did not want to talk to them.
“They got pushy. I did get a little cranky and I didn’t want them to come in. I didn’t listen to what my family said or what anyone said. I didn’t want any part of it,” she said.
In addition, Poelzer said she met Shachtay on three occasions – during a Run for the Cure event, at the Innisfail gas station where Shachtay worked at and at Shachtay’s home in which Poelzer accompanied Malley’s wife Christine. She recalled Shachtay’s daughter walking around in diapers at the time of their visit.
Poelzer said she and Christine walked over to Shachtay’s home from the Malley residence, which was a short distance, and stayed for about 15 to 20 minutes.
“There was a conversation and then we left. I don’t remember what was being talked about,” she said.
Poelzer described the fourplex as having stairs up to the front door.
“I am going to suggest to you that that never happened,” said Quist. “Someone told you to say that.”
Poelzer denied the allegations.
“You say that there were stairs leading up to the fourplex?” Quist asked.
Poelzer replied, “Yes.”
“Those are all of my questions,” Quist said.