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Key witness a no-show in assault trial

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

The testimony of a man who was allegedly held against his will and assaulted throughout the night in 2017 did not make a scheduled appearance in court July 13.

The Crown prosecutor attempted to reach out and locate the victim, Gregory Powell, but was not successful.

Powell was in contact with the Crown prosecutor earlier in June to make plans for his stay in Hinton for the two days of the trial this week.

Powell never checked into his hotel and his family was also unaware of his whereabouts.

Instead, the judge decided Powell could reschedule the continuation of his testimony to a date in November 2020, when the trial was already set to continue.

Powell’s testimony is a critical piece of evidence, and without it this case will either have to be stayed or dismissed, the judge noted.

Before this decision was made the defense lawyers argued that without any indication where Powell currently is and no response to attempts to reach him, there is no guarantee he would show up at the later scheduled date.

The judge stated the witness is material in the case, he was told and agreed to return to complete his testimony, and has been cooperative until now. A lengthy period of time has passed since the accused were first charged and further delay is a concern, the judge added.

The accused are currently no longer in custody but are on house arrest.

In the meantime, the Crown brought forward other witnesses such as police officers involved in the investigation two years ago.

During Powell’s testimony on Nov. 5, 2019, the court heard that he plead for his life on Oct. 5, 2017 as he sat bound by the wrists and ankles with zip ties, chains, and insulator foam in the shop rented by one of the accused.

Powell stated that his involvement with the two accused, Collin Glaser and Jesse LaBlanc, was through a drug operation for Glaser in the Edson and Hinton area.

On the evening of Oct. 4, 2017, Powell drove out to Hinton to deliver a large sum of money and pick up drugs when things got heated, he said.

All three consumed drugs in Glaser’s rented shop, and then LaBlanc’s ex-girlfriend called to speak with Powell.

LaBlanc became angry and hit Powell with a self-made mace-like weapon, which severely injured him, Powell said.

Powell added that both Glaser and Lablanc were wielding guns and tortured him in various ways throughout the night, while accusing him of stealing contacts and product.

With open wounds LaBlanc poured chemical solvents over him, Powell claimed.

He went on to say the two accused decided to transport Powell to another area using a Ford Explorer as the sun began to rise on Oct. 5, 2017.

As LaBlanc drove out towards Switzer Drive, Powell managed to break out of the rear window hatch. LaBlanc got out of his vehicle but then left Powell on the street, who stumbled over to Helmig Safety, severely beaten and bloodied and with his hands and arms still restrained.

Once inside the building, Helmig’s staff called 911 and help soon arrived, as did RCMP officers, who shut down and blockaded the Hampshire Road area. 

During his testimony, Powell explained that he and LaBlanc were close friends prior to the incident and spent a lot of time together.

Glaser was arrested within 24 hours of the incident at the nearby 7/11, and according to the testimony of Const. Leanne Bandy, police found he carried an envelope with a large sum of money.

Lablanc was arrested on Oct. 16 when, according to testimony by Cpl. Brent Lawson, Lablanc and the Ford Explorer were found east of Hinton along Hwy. 16.

Blood spots were found in the Ford Explorer, according to the Crown, as well as shoe marks on the back window of the vehicle.

Glaser and Lablanc plead not guilty to all charges, including unlawful confinement of Gregory Powell along Hampshire Road, as well as charges including unlawful confinement, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, pointing a firearm at a person, and threatening to cause death or bodily harm.

Powell’s testimony came to an abrupt halt on Nov. 6, three days into the trial, when the defence lawyers discovered a piece of evidence in their possession and new representation was requested. 

New representation has since been obtained and both accused appeared in court on July 13 and 14.

Exhibits of weapons were presented in court on July 13 that were found on the property rented by Glaser.

Among the items seized and catalogued were multiple sets of zip ties, knives, nunchucks, a metal branding iron with the word goof, large heavy chains, a Louisville slugger bat, a metal pipe with tape wrapped around one end to fashion a handle, a bag of cellphones, firearms with the serial numbers filed off, and the insurance and registration of Gregory Powell, stated Const. Michael Rathbun, who logged about 50 exhibits during the search of the property.

Rathbun said they also seized two club-like sticks with a chain wrapped around it, one that had  ‘homeboy’ written on it, and the other had ‘bone crusher’ written across it.

One of the defense attorney’s pointed out that no spray foam, chemical solvents, or any sign of blood was found inside the property.

Foam sealant was found in the motorhome outside of the property as well as a long rifle, stated Const. Andrew Daley, who also seized and catalogued various items throughout the search.