The mother of man brutally murdered on the Nak’azdli reserve near Fort St. James in 2012 says the family accepted the Crown’s decision to accept a guilty plea from one of three people charged with the murder to avoid having to sit through a trial.
James David Junior Charlie, whose conviction for the first degree murder of Fribjon Bjornson, 28, was overturned and a new trial ordered, pleaded instead to the lesser charge of manslaughter earlier this month.
“Our family was consulted about the decision to offer this plea agreement. We accepted with difficulty knowing the facts of the case but the idea of having to sit through a whole new trial was more than we could bear,” said Eileen Bjornson in a statement following Charlie’s plea.
“It has been 8.75 years since they murdered our son. We have been forced to relive his death over and over. We are tired. We want to remember Fribjon as he lived and the kind and thoughtful person he was.”
Charlie was first arrested in late 2013 along with Wesley Dennis Duncan and Jesse Darren Bird following an extensive RCMP investigation that started when Bjornson was reported last seen at the 7-11 in Vanderhoof on Jan. 12, 2012.
His truck was found on the Nak’azdli reserve a few days later. A search of an abandoned residence on the Nak’Azdii reserve resulted in the discovery of Bjornson’s head shortly thereafter.
Initial criminal charges against Duncan, Bird and Charlie were subsequently upgraded in 2014 to first degree murder. Duncan and Bird then pleaded guilty to second degree murder.
Charlie was convicted by a jury in 2017 but that conviction was then appealed with the BC Court of Appeal ordering a new trial after finding the trial judge erred in answering one of the jury’s questions on his intent at the time of the offence.
A fourth person, Teresa Marie Charlie, was found guilty of accessory to murder, after the fact, in 2016.
Following Bjornson’s murder, a walk and smudging ceremony to show support for families affected by violence and to call for change took place in February 2012 at Nak’azdli. An estimated 600 people gathered at the Kwah Hall and then made their way to the house where his head was found.