A North Thompson woman charged in connection with the 2020 shooting death of her husband on a remote forest service road near Vavenby has been acquitted of second-degree murder, but has been convicted of manslaughter.
Ashley Tschritter was charged with killing her 39-year-old husband, David Simpson, on Sept. 6, 2020. Her trial began in BC Supreme Court in Kamloops on Nov. 24 and ended on Dec. 1, with the jury delivering its verdict on Dec. 2. Sentencing arguments have been scheduled for Jan. 9.
A shotgun wound to Simpson’s chest/thorax was confirmed as the cause of his death based on the autopsy performed by Dr. Jason Doyle, who is a consultant for Interior Health and the BC Coroners Service. Doyle explained during trial that due to “rapid blood loss” and the location of the shotgun wound in relation to the heart, the outcome would have been “catastrophic,” with close to zero chance of survivability, regardless of whether medical treatment could be administered immediately.
Court heard that at the time of the shooting, Tschritter told emergency responders that her husband had shot himself. However, Doyle’s examination indicated that the muzzle of the shotgun wound was not touching Simpson’s skin.
Defence lawyers Bobby Movassaghi and Bianca Kendregan made arguments during trial that called police procedures into question and raised concerns about the alleged involvement of a third party on the day of Simpson’s death.
That third party, Gary Flowers, 45, was interviewed and his recorded eyewitness account was played for the jury during trial. Flowers described visiting the family at a campsite on Sept. 6, 2020, and estimated he departed sometime between 3 and 5 p.m. due to overstimulation from upset children and barking dogs. He said Tschritter later invited him to return for a visit at about 10:30 p.m., when the kids were asleep and the dogs had quieted down.
Flowers said Simpson had a rifle and a shotgun at the campsite, noting the trio went shooting together. However, there was some contention around when the time to put away the weapons came. From there, court heard Flowers explain that tensions continued to rise in the group, and Ashley left the campfire, throwing chairs and slamming the door on the RV after Simpson brought up a woman from 100 Mile House.
He said Tschritter then threatened to shoot Simpson and left the group setting to go inside the RV.
Flowers said he and Simpson made “pints” of rum and coke while socializing, sitting around the campfire with their backs to the trailer after Tschritter had allegedly left while threatening to shoot her husband. Upon her return outside of the RV, Flowers testified that Simpson asked if she came out to apologize to them, only to see Tschritter holding a shotgun and aiming it at Simpson.
Court heard testimony from Flowers that both men tried to defuse the situation and asked Tschritter to lower the weapon. His account states that Simpson grabbed the shotgun to lower it and Flowers said he later attempted to lower it.
Flowers initially told defence lawyer Movassaghi that his knowledge of guns was limited, but indicated he had used shotguns upwards of 30 times when he lived in England.
Movassaghi asked Flowers if the duo was planning to open a marijuana grow-op together, but Flowers denied it. However, Flowers explained that Simpson regularly borrowed money from him and agreed with Movassaghi that Simpson was tired of being in debt.
Movassaghi argued that Flowers could have been the real shooter and that his relationships with police officers in Clearwater may have impacted the investigation. Crown counsel Tim Livingston confirmed Flowers has no criminal charges pending against him.
A forensic chemist with training as a firearms analyst reviewed the weapons, unfired and expended shot shells, pellets, magazines and two cartridges, as well as Simpson’s T-shirt from the shooting. He explained that even if Simpson’s shotgun had been jammed due to mechanical issues, an accidental discharge could have only taken place in the event the trigger was pulled — whether accidental or on purpose.
Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves reminded the jury that eyewitness accounts are susceptible to errors due to the way human memory works. Before the jury departed court to reach a verdict, Groves urged members to apply their common sense and critical thinking skills in their deliberations.