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First-degree murder charge in hit-and-run death 'unusual': lawyer

Murder charges require an intent to kill or intent to cause serious bodily harm knowing death is likely
Rod Kelly, 54, was killed while riding his bike on the Comox Valley Parkway Feb. 8. VIA CHEK NEWS

The first-degree murder charge laid in the death of cyclist Rodney Kelly is unusual and indicates the Crown does not believe the hit-and-run in Courtenay last week was a traffic accident, according to a Victoria lawyer.

Steven Henry Squires, 45, of Cumberland was charged Sunday with first-degree murder in the death of Rod Kelly. Comox Valley RCMP responded to a call of an injured cyclist on the Comox Valley Parkway near Minto Road in Courtenay shortly before 11 p.m. on Feb. 8. He died in hospital of his injuries.

It’s uncommon to see a murder charge laid in a traffic death, because murder charges require an intent to kill or intent to cause serious bodily harm knowing death is likely, said Michael Mulligan, a criminal lawyer in Victoria who is not involved in the case.

Common charges in a traffic death are dangerous driving causing death or impaired driving causing death, he said.

In B.C., police recommend charges and Crown counsel lay charges if they determine there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and the charges are in the public interest.

“You can draw from the fact that the Crown approved the charge the fact that they do not believe it was an accident,” Mulligan said.

A first-degree murder charge requires an aggravating factor that sets it apart from second-degree murder, most commonly that the act is planned and deliberate, he said.

Other aggravating factors include contract killings, the killing of a police officer or other law enforcement, gang killings, or killings in the course of other offences, such as kidnapping and sexual assault, Mulligan said.

Planning does not have to have taken place over a long time to justify first-degree murder charges, but it requires more than a decision in the moment to kill, as in a road rage incident, he said.

Kelly, 54, worked as a heli-logger and loved the outdoors, his two sons told CHEK News. He made them laugh and would do anything for others, they said.

“I still can’t believe it, that he’s gone. And I’m struggling,” Kelly’s son Douglas Kelly-Waterfield told CHEK.

Kelly-Waterfield is angry and doesn’t understand why someone would choose to kill his father.

Squires has his next court appearance Feb. 29.