A Williams Lake area man involved in kidnapping a couple and throwing them off the Rudy Johnson Bridge resulting in the death of the man, will serve at least 18 years in prison.
Jayson Gilbert appeared in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver on Dec. 8 and was sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to second degree murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in the death of Branton Regner three years ago.
A charge of second degree murder against Gilbert in the death of Richard ‘Savage’ Duncan, who died on Aug. 6, 2019, was stayed by Crown Counsel as part of a resolution agreement that led to Gilbert pleading guilty to the three charges in the Rudy Johnson Bridge incident.
Gilbert was also sentenced seven years concurrent for attempted murder and three years concurrent for kidnapping, and received a 10-year firearm ban.
“Gilbert was ordered to serve 18 years before he will be eligible for parole on the murder charge,” said Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel BC Prosecution Service.
Regner, who was 34, and his girlfriend Chantelle Laplante were taken by vehicle and driven north of Williams Lake on Aug. 8, 2019.
They were then beaten and thrown off the Rudy Johnson Bridge into the Fraser River in the early hours of Aug. 9, 2019.
Regner’s body was found three weeks later 50 km downstream near the Sheep Creek Bridge on Aug. 27, by someone who was fishing there.
Laplante swam to safety on Mad Russian Island and hid there until the morning light when she swam across to shore and made her way up the road to a farmhouse where she received help.
Originally Gilbert was charged with first degree murder for the death of Regner, but pleaded guilty on April 8, 2022 to the lesser charge of second degree murder.
Michael Drynock and Jordell Sellars were also accused of first degree murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in the case.
The charges against Sellars were stayed in October 2021.
Drynock went to trial in April and May 2022 and afterwards Supreme Court Justice Carol J. Ross found Drynock not guilty on all counts.
In her reasons for judgment, dated Aug. 10, 2022, Justice Ross detailed evidence presented to the court. She noted Laplante testified Regner had witnessed the shooting death of Richard ‘Savage’ Duncan Aug. 6, 2019 in the driveway of the Williams Lake home they were staying with Duncan in the 1100 block of Mackenize Avenue.
Laplante told the court she believed Regner was killed because he witnessed the shooting of Duncan.
Police had discovered 43-year-old Duncan suffering from gunshot wounds following a report of gunshots. He later died in hospital from his injuries.
Although Laplante was not home at the time of the shooting, she told the court when Regner was invited to a barbecue the evening of Aug. 8, she ended up going with him even though she was not comfortable with the idea.
After they were picked up in a black Dodge Durango to go to the barbecue, the driver made one stop at the share shed in Wildwood where they stayed for 10 to 15 minutes before proceeding to a trailer at Deep Creek.
When they arrived at the trailer, Laplante observed Gilbert and three other men standing beside another vehicle, which Laplante described as four-door, light coloured with a trunk.
The court heard Regner was forcibly taken from the car, assaulted, dragged to another vehicle and forced into the truck. Laplante said she was forced at gunpoint into the backseat of that vehicle and seated between Gilbert and an unidentified man, both of whom were armed.
There were two other men in the vehicle, the driver and someone in the front passenger seat.
From the trailer, the car travelled to the Rudy Johnson Bridge, with a stop along the way to let Laplante go to the bathroom.
At the bridge, Gilbert and the unknown man removed Regner from the trunk and threw him into river.
They returned for Laplante, who they removed from the car, took to the bridge deck, beat and then threw into the river.
Within the reasons for judgment the unknown man was never identified.
The court heard on Aug. 13, 2019 that police located a light-coloured, four-door Dodge Charger with a trunk, burning in a gravel pit near Lytton.
The registered owner of the car was Drynock’s brother Kleon Pop, but due to the burned condition of the vehicle no forensic evidence was able to be collected.
Additional evidence at court noted that Gilbert was arrested on Aug. 9, 2019, while he was a passenger in a Chevrolet Malibu driving on Highway 97.
RCMP had stopped the Malibu because it was described as a suspect vehicle in Richard Duncan’s homicide. Drynock’s palm print was located on the exterior of the rear driver side door of the Malibu.
Unrelated to this case, Jordell Sellars is now facing charges of attempted murder and discharging a firearm with intent to endanger life in connection with shooting of two people on Sunday, July 3, 2022 in the upper level of the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds.
His next court appearance was scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14 in Williams Lake law courts.
Editor’s note. This article has been updated with additional information from Crown Counsel from the original article.