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Williams Lake man to be sentenced for 2019 Rudy Johnson Bridge kidnappings, murder

Branton Regner was beaten, thrown off bridge allegedly for witnessing Richard ‘Savage’ Duncan murder
Michael Drynock (left) and Jayson Gilbert were charged with first degree murder in the death of Branton Regner. Drynock was found not guilty, while Gilbert pleaded guilty to second degree murder and awaits sentencing. (RCMP handout/social media photos)

A sentencing hearing gets underway on Wednesday, Oct. 26 for a man who pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of Branton Regner near Williams Lake in August 2019.

Regner, 34, and his girlfriend Chantelle Laplante were beaten and thrown off the Rudy Johnson Bridge into the Fraser River in the early hours of Aug. 9, 2019 in a violent crime that shocked area residents. Just a few days before, Regner was believed to be witness to the murder of Richard ‘Savage’ Duncan in Williams Lake.

Regner’s body was discovered by a fisherman about 50 kilometres downstream near the Sheep Creek Bridge more than two weeks later on Aug. 27, 2019.

Laplante managed to swim to Mad Russian Island south of the bridge after being thrown into the river where she spent the night.

In the morning she swam to shore on the west side, climbed up a cliff and made her way to a nearby farmhouse where she received help and the RCMP were notified.

Jayson James Anthony Gilbert and Michael Drynock were originally charged with first degree murder, kidnapping and attempted murder in the case.

Gilbert pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second degree murder on April 9, 2022 in Vancouver BC Supreme Court and guilty to the other charges of kidnapping and attempted murder.

Drynock proceeded to a trial that took place in April and May 2022, also in Vancouver.

After the trial, Supreme Court Justice Carol J. Ross found Drynock not guilty on all counts.

In her written ruling, dated Aug. 10, 2022, Ross noted Laplante’s testimony was the “cornerstone of the Crown’s case.” Ross concluded Laplante was a “credible witness,” but found there were some incidences where her testimony at trial differed from previous statements to police.

Ross outlined how the court heard that Regner and Laplante were both drug users.

Other details of the case are outlined in the Reasons for Judgement, dated Aug. 10, 2022, noting in the days leading up to the incident Regner and Laplante were living in a house in the 1100 block of Mackenzie Avenue North.

Shortly after they moved in, a man named Richard ‘Savage’ Duncan moved into the Mackenzie house as well.

On the evening of Aug. 5, 2019, Duncan was shot in the driveway of the property and died as result of his injuries. Nine months later Gilbert was charged with second degree murder in connection to Duncan’s death.

At the time of the shooting, Regner was inside the home and Laplante was away visiting another friend.

Laplante testified in court she believed people wanted Regner killed because he had witnessed who was present at the time of the shooting.

According to court documents, late in the evening of Aug. 8, Regner and Laplante were picked up from the Mackenzie Avenue residence and taken by vehicle to a mobile home north of Williams Lake at Deep Creek to supposedly attend a barbecue.

When they arrived Regner was beaten up and put into the trunk of a car while Laplante was put into the back seat.

She testified she was sitting in between Gilbert and another person she was unable to identify and that Drynock was sitting in the front passenger seat.

They were then taken to the Rudy Johnson Bridge north of Williams Lake where they were thrown into the river.

Jordell Sellars was also charged with murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in relation to the case, however his charges were later stayed in October 2021.

Most recently, Sellars is charged with shooting two people on Sunday, July 3 in the upper level of the Williams Lake Stampede grounds.

His latest court date was Monday, Oct. 17.

He remains in custody with his next court appearance scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29 in Williams Lake.

BC Prosecution Service communications counsel Dan McLaughlin noted several days are set aside for Gilbert’s sentencing hearing which takes place in Vancouver.

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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