A blackjack pro is on trial in Canada this week accused of murdering his friend and card-counting partner, the jury hearing this week that a row over money led to the killing…
63-year-old Chris Lee, aka Kevin Barton, of Calgary, has already admitted to killing his long-time friend, Vida Smith, in 2020.
He claims he killed her in a parking lot during a row over $10,000 he paid for a passport, but his defence lawyer’s plea of Lee being guilty to manslaughter has not been accepted by the prosecution.
Instead, say the prosecution, Lee took Vida Smith to a remote location and shot her, although her body has never been found and Lee claims not to recall exactly where he dumped her body.
Lee and Smith are said to have had a tempestuous 30-year relationship as friends and, latterly, fellow blackjack players, Smith’s daughter testifying how Lee taught her mother how to count cards.
The $10k “final straw”
Banned from multiple casinos, Lee claims he had paid Smith $10,000 for her ex-husband’s passport, but when he met her in a Starbucks parking lot she instead handed over a birth certificate.
His plans to circumvent casino bans required a photo ID, however and an argument ensued, during which Lee claims to have put his arm around Smith’s neck as she attempted to leave the car with the $10,000 in her handbag.
“What was your reaction to Vida Smith, for the third and final time, trying to screw you out of money,” Crown prosecutor Shane Parker asked Lee, adding: ”A final straw?”
“It turned out to be a final straw,” Lee answered.
“You put a smaller, older woman in a chokehold until she died?” asked Parker.
“Yes,” replied Lee.
Lee’s demeanour in court was picked up on by the prosecution.
“You were very stoic as you were describing to Mr. Wilson how you killed your friend of 30 years,” Parker put to Lee.
“I show very little emotion most of the time,” Lee replied, claiming his lifetime spent in casinos are responsible for his poker face.
“I’ve grown accustomed to being more mellow. I try not to display emotion.”
Getting rid of the body
After killing Smith, Lee claims he then put Smith’s body in the back of his own car and drove to Edmonton, a few days later driving to the mountains and disposing of her body near a rest stop close to Banff or Canmore.
Lee claimed not to remember where exactly the body was left, with Parker stating:
“I’m going to suggest to you you’d never forget the location.”
After Lee was informed police wanted to speak to him about Smith’s death, and the day before his arrest, Lee was seen by detectives to clean the back of his car. He also took it to a car wash for a vacuum clean and was spotted throwing car keys into nearby bushes. These turned out to belong to Smith’s car.
He also discarded a home-made silencer, which he claims had been used at a range some months previously.
“You say you used the homemade silencer months ago but chose to throw it out after you learned police were looking for you?” Parker asked, adding: “How can this jury accept anything you say, with such a consistent desire to do anything for your own advantage?”
The Smoking Gun?
The prosecution, who have charged Lee with 2ndDegree Murder, believe he actually shot Smith, using one of a number of guns found during his July 30th arrest.
“The .45 in your jacket pocket was the gun that caused Vida Smith’s death,” Parker stated in court to Lee.
“Totally incorrect,” Lee replied.
“Killing someone with a gun is a very intentional act, you would agree with that?” Parker continued.
“I didn’t shoot her anywhere,” Lee said.
The trial continues.
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