Alleged murder Gordon Alfred Rogers will be tried with a judge and jury.
Rogers, who is the suspect in the deaths of Violet Heathen and Jeanette Chief, made his sixth appearance in Lloydminster’s Alberta-side provincial court on Tuesday morning. Dressed in blue prison clothing, Rogers appeared in the courtroom via closed circuit television from Red Deer Correctional Centre.
Rogers’s case has been slowly making its way through the court system since his arrest in April of this year, and he was expected to enter a plea in his latest appearance. However, as events in court played out, this did not end up happening.
When the lawyer appearing as agent for Andrew Perrin, Rogers’s lawyer, stood up in the court, she had indicated she had not received instructions for the election of a trial process, or a plea. Despite this, two preliminary hearings were set up to take place in Vermilion, Alta, on the separate murder charges.
After leaving the courtroom to call Perrin’s Ontario office, the lawyer appearing as agent for Perrin told the court that trial would take place at the Queen’s Bench level, with a judge and jury.
The preliminary hearing for the murder of Violet Heathen will take place on May 8, 2017, to May 12, 2017, while the preliminary hearing for the murder charge of Jeanette Chief will be taking place from June 12, 2017 to June 18, 2017, according to discussion in the courtroom.
Crown Prosecutor Brett Grierson, who handled the file on Tuesday morning, said the pair of dates was the earliest available blocks of time for the cases. Grierson also said Rogers was still contesting his guilt. A date for the Queen’s Bench trial is not yet set.
After the courtroom discussion on the matter took place, it was set aside until the next appearance in 2017. Family members of the two deceased women were present in the courtroom during Tuesday’s session, and later expressed frustration with the court process, and the lack of a plea.
“We’re just confused as to why there was no plea today,” said Roxanne Naistus, the niece of Violet Heathen.
“It’s a long process, and wherever it takes us, we have no choice. We have to wait it out.”
Naistus also said the families had been upset by the moving of Rogers to Red Deer, after he had been held in Edmonton. However, she did see one positive from the court appearance.”
“We’re happy that it’s going to be judge and jury, that part we’re happy about,” said Naistus.
“It just seems like it’s going to be a very long wait, to wait until May 2017.”