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NNSL photo

Supported by family members, James Elias stands outside the Inuvik courthouse, Friday, where he is being tried for second-degree murder. With him are, left to right, his mother Millie and sisters Roseanne, Glenna and Janet. - Chris Hunsley/NNSL photo

Ex-RCMP officer's murder trial underway

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Inuvik (May 23/05) - The long-awaited second-degree murder trial of a former RCMP officer got underway in Inuvik last week.

Dressed in blue jeans and black fleece, James Elias, on bail since the Feb. 24, 2003 shooting of his brother Brian, showed up at court Tuesday with his mother.

The Tuktoyaktuk man also faces charges of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm after his friend Sammy Gruben was shot in the left shoulder the same evening.

The nine female and three male jurors will hear from approximately 20 witnesses on how an alcohol soaked party led to Brian Elias being shot twice in the abdomen after an argument erupted between the brothers.

Emergency response teams saw Elias move his brother's body and attempt to dispose of what is thought to be the murder weapon, Crown Counsel Loretta Colton said in her opening.

Colton warned jurors that memories tainted by alcohol would would play heavily in the trial.

The victim's blood alcohol level was four times higher than the legal driving limit and potentially fatal, said Dr. Graeme Dowling, chief medical examiner for the province of Alberta.

Dowling also said, because of the massive damage inflicted by one of the gunshots, that "I'd be very surprised that even with immediate surgery he could have been saved."

Sammy Gruben, who said he had blacked out from drinking when shot, pointed the finger directly at Elias as the shooter, but moments later reversed his testimony.

"I was standing on the stairs (outside the entrance to Elias' house) and I got shot in the left shoulder," he said, noting Elias was the shooter.

When asked how he knew it was Elias, Gruben responded: "I don't know, it was dark out."

Gruben said he found what was thought to be the murder weapon and moved it "so that Jim wouldn't hurt anyone else."

The trial, which is expected to last until the end of this week, resumes Tuesday.