Alex Norwegian was “in a daze” as he tried to drive his badly vandalized car away on a bitterly cold December 2017 morning, the man accused of murdering him told RCMP.
Norwegian had received a beating first, Levi Cayen told RCMP at the time. “I pulled him out of the car and hit him a couple of times … tied him up,” Cayen is seen telling investigators in an interview room after his arrest.
“He was standing, but fell down a couple of times,” Cayen went on to tell police. “I hit him in the leg, Jim [Thomas] told me to do that. I hit him with my hand, in his face, two or three times … I kicked him.”
Thomas was also arrested after those events, which took place on the morning of December 27, 2017 on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation’s Wilderness Road, as were cousins Sasha and Tyler Cayen.
Levi Cayen, now on trial for first-degree murder, had gone with Thomas to rob Norwegian of his drug stash. Cayen said he held a pipe and was operating under orders from Thomas, 27, whom he feared.
“I was scared. I smashed the window for him [Thomas]. Jim had a little bat, it didn’t work.”
Norwegian’s hands were tied behind his back. The pair didn’t find any drugs, but Thomas took his phone and his jacket.
“I wanted to bring him to the hospital,” Cayen said in video footage of his police interview, shown to jurors on Wednesday. “But Jim didn’t want to. I didn’t want this shit to happen.”
Cayen said when he and Thomas drove off in a truck, Norwegian was bleeding from his nose and “seemed like he was in a daze.”
Norwegian was having difficulty putting his car in gear and it stalled after driving into a snowbank.
When the pair got back to Thomas’s house, a decision was made that Cayen should take a snowmobile to a convenience store to use a payphone and call for help.
But Norwegian wasn’t located until the following day.
Skull fracture ‘significant’
A forensic pathologist testified on Thursday that the 25-year-old died of hypothermia. A small skull fracture, pathologist Dr Mitchell Weinberg said, was “a significant part” of the reason why Norwegian was unable to drive for medical help.
Dr Weinberg supervised Norwegian’s autopsy in Edmonton.
“Whether through an altered or decreased mental status through a loss of consciousness, or through blood loss from scalp lacerations, [the] blunt trauma was a significant contributory factor,” said Weinberg, “although not the primary cause.”
Questioned by Crown prosecutor Duane Praught, Weinberg said toxicology tests showed Norwegian had “actual cocaine in his blood” along with two common cutting agents for the drug.
He had taken some Tylenol but had not consumed cannabis. There was no evidence of carbon monoxide exposure.
“I concluded that the primary cause of Mr Norwegian’s death of hypothermia was due to a combination of circumstances,” said Weinberg, “namely the environmental conditions at the time, the broken windows [are suggestive of] significant cold exposure prior to death.”
Norwegian, was found bloodied and partially clothed in his badly vandalized car on December 28, 2017. Cayen, 24, has already pleaded guilty to robbery.
As the first-degree murder trial continued through its third week, jurors were asked to look at autopsy photos. Members of Norwegian’s family sat in the public gallery.
Weinberg, drawing jurors’ attention to “little black dots” seen in photos of the deceased’s stomach, said the dots were “not supposed to be there.”
“This photo is the inner surface of the stomach … those little black dots … are not supposed to be there,” said Weinberg. The dots are known as Wischnewski ulcers and are associated with hypothermia.
“Their presence is supportive – along with other findings, I believe – toward the diagnostic conclusion of hypothermia or environmental cold exposure being a significant factor in Mr Norwegian’s death,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg said Norwegian’s “other organ systems were essentially normal and healthy.”
The trial continued on Friday and will resume on Monday.