Nanaimo man found guilty of manslaughter in death of his abusive drug dealer

Killed his dealer-tormentor

A homeless heroin addict who violently killed Nanaimo drug dealer Richard Sitar in ­September 2017 has been ­convicted of manslaughter.

On Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robin Baird found John Albert Buchanan not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter after experiencing “one torment too many” from his victim.

The murder was impulsively committed on the spur of the moment in response to a sudden and unexpected provocation before Buchanan’s passions had time to cool, said Baird.

“In my view, you reacted inappropriately and disproportionately, but understandably, to a sufficiently wrongful act or insult from Mr. Sitar.”

Evidence at trial revealed that Sitar was a drug dealer, prolific thief and property fencer. He lived with his wife, Amanda, and ran a brisk trade in narcotics and stolen property out of their apartment. Buchanan was a heroin and methamphetamine addict, living rough in a makeshift shanty in a backyard near Sitar’s building.

Buchanan had a dysfunctional and morbidly dependent relationship with Sitar, Baird said. Buchanan bought his drugs primarily from Sitar and supplied him with stolen property for cash or to barter for drugs. He was in and out of Sitar’s apartment on a regular basis. Sometimes they got along, but sometimes things between them became fractious and violent, Baird said, in a review of trial evidence.

“I find that Mr. Sitar was the alpha dog. He always had the upper hand. The accused was his servant or client and he was invariably on the receiving end of physical and verbal abuse from Mr. Sitar,” said Baird.

A few weeks before his death, Sitar attacked Buchanan with pepper spray in the parking lot of the neighbourhood McDonald’s.

“The assault appeared to be nasty, gratuitous, excessive and completely unprovoked,” said Baird.

In his decision, Baird accepted and relied on the evidence of an inmate who testified that Buchanan had confessed to the killing. Buchanan told the inmate, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, that on the day of the killing, he gave Sitar $80 for heroin and methamphetamine. When he returned later, he found Sitar had used the drugs. They started arguing, and Sitar told Buchanan he wanted him to re-steal a motorbike that had already been returned to its owners by police or he would shoot his girlfriend. Sitar was brandishing a gun as he said this, the inmate testified.

Sitar was in and out of consciousness, high on drugs, the inmate recounted. Buchanan went to the front door, locked it, grabbed a baseball bat and hit Sitar on the head with it.

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