Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Pickton: The Vancouver Missing Women

The Witnesses: Casanova

by Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.

Drama entered the courtroom during the first half of June with two controversial witnesses offering potentially explosive testimony.  Both were acquaintances of Pickton's.  The first man was only mildly interesting, although Canadian papers had created great anticipation, but the second stirred several edgy moments.

Pat Casanova, once arrested during the investigation of fifteen of the victims now associated with Pickton, used to regularly butcher pigs on the Pickton farm, but could not recall ever using the freezer where remains from two of the victims were found in 2002.  He said that Pickton had done so.  However, he'd said at a preliminary hearing that at times he had in fact used that freezer, up until a month before Pickton's arrest, so the truth about this issue remained unresolved.  It hovered over the rest of the testimony.

Casanova, married and suffering from treatment for throat cancer, admitted that he received oral sex from one of the victims, Andrea Joesbury, while in Pickton's trailer.  He remembered her name as "Angel," and that Dinah Taylor had brought her to the farm.  Casanova had paid Taylor, who gave some of the money to Angel.  Casanova said he'd noticed items of clothing in the trailer and some purses that belonged to women who were not present, but admitted that Pickton had never spoken with him about missing women.  Casanova had known Pickton for approximately two decades and had seen him angry only once.

Being caught in a lie in earlier statements, Casanova admitted that he'd told the police after Pickton was arrested that he'd been sexually engaged on the farm with only one woman — "Roxanne."  He'd never mentioned Angel, and in fact he might have been one of the last people to see her alive.  The defense attorneys seemed to hope to pose Casanova as a good suspect in Angel's murder, although he was not charged with it after his arrest.  In any event, the jury did see that Casanova was able to lie easily to protect himself.  Thus, he was less than a credible witness — especially because he'd told a police officer that he doesn't lie.  Casanova defended himself on this point with the notion that he's sometimes forgetful. 

Regarding certain pieces of evidence, he explained his DNA on a slaughterhouse door as the result of mucous spewed after his throat treatments.  He denied using orange bags for carrying butchered pigs, deflecting the implication that he might be the killer, since a victim's DNA was found on such a bag.

Whether Pickton's attorneys were successful at transferring suspicion from their client onto Casanova remains to be seen, but they did manage to undermine his claim to honesty.  Similarly, they attacked the next prosecution witness, but to greater effect.


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