Maureen Collins burst into tears and fell into her family’s arms after the judge left the courtroom.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donna Shelley had just announced she would admit evidence gathered by undercover police officers into Shawn Wruck’s first-degree murder trial.
Wruck is accused of killing Collins’ daughter Shannon in December 2007.
The case was unsolved for five years. Then RCMP launched a “Mr. Big” sting, dubbed Project Kolumbo, targeting Wruck.
Over the course of four months, undercover officers pretended to be involved in lucrative organized crime.
Police told lies and staged events including the kidnapping of a woman, played by an undercover Mountie, at gunpoint.
They took Wruck on “business” trips to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton and even flew him to Montreal to take in a championship fight.
Shelley decided there was no RCMP abuse of process in Project Kolumbo.
“At no time is Mr. Wruck threatened with violence,” she said. “The message was one of friendship and support. It is clear that at least from Mr. Wruck’s perspective, the relationships were very positive and close.”
Confessions ‘generally quite detailed’
The first time Wruck met an undercover officer, he confessed he played a role in the death of his girlfriend. Over the next four months, he confessed four more times.
The judge observed Wruck’s statements were “generally quite detailed,” but did not produce additional evidence that could be gathered by investigators.
Shelley also noted there were “differences” in the various confessions that caused her some concern.
During Wruck’s interview with crime boss Mr. Big, he said he used a large Rubbermaid container to transport Collins’ body, and told them he still had the container in his West Kelowna garage.
Project Kolumbo fell apart when undercover officers wanted him to hand it over.
“Dude, I don’t have that thing,” Wruck wrote in a text message. “I never did.”
Then Wruck backed away from his earlier confessions.
“I’ve come to love you like a brother,” another text read. “I never did that thing. I wasn’t scared to admit to it because I’m innocent.”
The judge admitted the recanting is a “very serious issue,” but still decided the Mr. Big evidence presented in a voir dire met the test of being “worthy of being heard” in the trial proper.
Allowing the evidence does not mean she will ultimately accept it as being truthful.
‘Decision today was very clear’
Outside court, Maureen Collins said, “It’s been a good day. We feel it went the right way. It’s been a long haul, but I think the decision today was very clear.”
The Crown has rested its case and the defence intends to present evidence. Defence lawyer Ajay Juneja said he may call Wruck to testify in his own defence.
The lawyers have been told to let the judge know when they’ll be available for another five trial days. The case may have to be put on hold until the new year.
Collins said she has faith in the judge and the justice system and is determined to be patient.
“We have waited a long time and, because we may have to again wait a little bit into the new year, it’s just a few more months, we can do it,” she said.