Brittney Irving's sister Kisa Crane, left, mother Sandra Irving and brother Joze Macculloch say they're happy with Joe Verma's conviction for first-degree murder. Sandra Irving called him heartless.
The six men and six women spent more than two days discussing the evidence against the mid-level drug dealer before convicting him Thursday afternoon of Brittney Irving's first-degree murder. Irving's brother Joze Macculloch shouted "Yes!" from the front row of the courtroom, and her sister and mother hugged in their seats.
On the other side of the aisle, most of the women sitting among Verma's supporters dabbed their eyes and wept quietly. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames asked Verma if he had anything to say - he declined - before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole eligibility for 25 years.
Verma, who has spent more than three years in custody awaiting trial, turned several times and nodded toward the dozen friends and relatives as if to assure them. He remained standing as jurors left the courtroom for the last time.
Outside, the victim's mother, Sandra Irving, admitted she predicted an acquittal because the jury deliberated for so long.
"I just hope he rots in hell," she said. "He shot her in the back. What kind of man is that? He doesn't deserve to be on our territory."
The five-week trial, which called numerous drug dealers to testify, was hard on the family, Irving said - especially when Verma's lawyer cross-examined Macculloch, who helped set up his sister's final transaction.
"Having to deal with my sister's death is one thing, but then having to watch my mother go through this. . . . All I got to say is Ya! Yay-hoo," Macculloch said.
Sister Kisa Crane thanked prosecutors Iain Currie and Mallory Treddenick, and witnesses who "put their reputations and more on the line" when testifying about the 2010 marijuana deal that led to Brittney's death at age 24.
"She made a lot of mistakes, like all of us do. She just didn't get the opportunity to correct all those mistakes," Crane said. "Her life, we don't know what it would have been. She's not going to get to find out. And now (Verma) won't find out what his life is going to be either. I'm pretty happy about it."
Verma, now 32, convinced Irving he was willing to buy at least 23 kilograms of high-grade marijuana from her for more than $100,000. He knew she was hungry for cash to pay a lawyer after police busted her grow-op a week earlier.
People close to her testified she was making numerous deals to acquire kilograms of marijuana in the days prior to her disappearance. On April 6, 2010, Verma asked her via text message whether she had "that 50-cent CD" - a cryptic reference to the quantity he requested, prosecutors said.
Verma told police he was at his cousin Jason Labonte's house all that day and later told him to "shut up" when speaking to police. In fact, Verma arranged with Irving to go shooting in the woods after she delivered the weed. When the truck he borrowed got stuck in the mud off McCulloch Road, he asked Labonte to help pull him out.
Verma's friend Mike Roberts testified he loaned his truck to Verma that morning because Verma didn't want to be seen driving his own truck. Roberts identified a pair of gym shoes and a hunting jacket found on Irving's body as his belongings, which he stored in his truck.
Verma told him he'd replace the clothes. He later ordered Roberts to take the blame for Irving's death and promised to set up his wife financially while he was in jail. If he refused, Roberts and his family would be killed, Roberts said.
Labonte and Roberts are both under police protection. They entered the courtroom through a door reserved for the judge and court staff.
The defence argued Irving's criminal lifestyle and the bad company she kept should lead the jury to acquit. The star witnesses lied to police, and lawyer Jordan Watt said there was no forensic evidence linking Verma to the body or to Roberts's truck.
The defence has 30 days to appeal the verdict.