Content warning: The following story contains details of a homicide that may be disturbing to some readers.
The next court date for three individuals charged in relation to the fire and homicide at Manny’s Motel in Wetaskiwin in early 2020, is scheduled for May 23, at the Edmonton Court of King’s Bench.
The victim, 21-year-old Joseph Desjarlais, was found burned in Manny’s with a sock in his mouth and a wire around his neck, according to court documents.
Levi William Favel, Riley Keith Maygard-Olynyk and Brittany Lynne Lucy Omeasoo had all been charged with first degree murder and arson with disregard for human life, but the charge has been lowered to second degree murder for all three accused. The Crown is also not proceeding with the arson charge against Omeasoo.
A decision on a directed verdict application was signed on Oct. 31, 2022, in Wetaskiwin.
The Hon. Justice W. N. Renke determined after reviewing the evidence that a jury, properly instructed, could not reasonably find the accused guilty of first degree murder, but could find them guilty of second degree murder.
Renke also agreed with the Crown’s decision regarding Omeasoo’s arson charge, stating there was no evidence to support the charge.
The main evidence used in the applications was voluntary statements made by each accused in interviews with police as well as relevant evidence from the Crown’s case.
Manny’s Motel, located off 40 Avenue in Wetaskiwin, was badly damaged by a fire that started shortly before midnight on Jan. 14, 2020.
Used as a shelter and low income housing, the other residents of the building were evacuated by RCMP.
Due to extreme cold the scene wasn’t examined until Jan. 20, and Desjarlais’ remains weren’t located until Jan. 23.
The Wetaskiwin RCMP and the Major Crimes Unit continued the investigation, arresting two suspects in March, 2020.
According to court documents, Desjarlais was tied up and accelerants such as Axe body spray and cooking oil were used to set a fire close to him.
In their statements to police, all three accused admit to being present while Desjarlais was being choked and participating in binding his feet.
The Crown argued each of the accused were responsible for Desjarlais’ death through contributing to his unlawful confinement.
According to the written decision, the accused’s degree of participation must have been a substantial cause of Desjarlais’ death in order to warrant the greater charge of first degree murder.