Jesse Blue West testified in court Thursday that his son, Dustin Moir, killed 14-year-old Chelsey Acorn of Abbotsford during an argument at a campground in 2005, and West buried her body to protect him.
West said he later lied and told a “crime boss” – actually an undercover police officer – that it was he who had killed Acorn in order to get “all the big steak dinners and travel” that would come with being part of the criminal organization.
West, 60, is on trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack for the first-degree murder of Acorn, whose body was found in a wooded area in April 2006 off the Coquihalla Highway near the Carolin Mines exit.
Acorn had been reported missing from an Abbotsford foster home on June 10, 2005, and an autopsy determined she had been murdered in the fall of that year.
However, West said her death took place on June 11, 2005.
He said he first met Acorn in about February or March of that year through his son, and he believed the pair to be in a relationship.
The two would sometimes stay at West’s apartment in Surrey when he was travelling for his job as a long-haul trucker.
West said that on June 10, 2005 – a Friday – Moir asked West if he and Acorn could stay at the apartment. But West said he would be home for the weekend and recommended the pair go camping instead.
West said he picked the couple up in Abbotsford and dropped them off at a campground off the Coquihalla Highway where he had stayed “two or three times” the previous year. The area had four or five campsites, and only one was still available, he said.
West made arrangements to return the following day to see how Moir and Acorn were doing. He said they were arguing when he arrived.
“She looked like she was mad … She was shaking her hand at him – more or less, getting her point across to him, I thought,” West testified.
He said Moir walked over to him and told him that Acorn was claiming to be pregnant with Moir’s child, and she wanted to move in with him but was angry because he was living with someone else at the time.
West said he then told Moir that he would take the couple home, and he went for a walk to give them time to cool down and pack up their stuff.
West said as he was walking back toward the campsite, he saw Moir and Acorn arguing near the river – less than 20 feet from their tent – and it appeared that Moir swung at the teen, knocking her to the ground.
Acorn did not get up and was not moving by the time West got to them, he said. She had a gash on her forehead and over her right eye. He said he spent the next several minutes trying to find a pulse and, when he couldn’t, he determined she was dead.
West said he then went into “recovery mode.”
“That’s when I made the big mistake and decided I would cover up the incident … I decided I would bury Chelsey.”
West said he used a machete and his bare hands to dig an 18-inch-deep hole in the fire pit located in front of the tent area, and stripped Acorn of her clothes so that it would be more difficult to identify her if she were found.
He said he then gently placed her in the hole, on her side in a fetal position, and covered her face with a napkin. Next, he placed seven or eight large rocks, followed by a layer of dirt.
Crown counsel Carolyn Kramer asked West if he then tramped down the dirt with his feet.
“No. I did have respect for her,” he said.
West said Moir was “in a daze” and did not help bury Acorn. The pair then cleaned up the campsite and later disposed of all Acorn’s belongings in a dumpster at a Tim Hortons coffee shop in Chilliwack.
West and Moir were both arrested and charged in May 2007 following a “Mr. Big” operation in which undercover officers posed as members of a criminal organization.
West was shown in undercover footage confessing to the “crime boss” that he had killed Acorn, but he testified on Thursday he lied to win favour with the boss.
“The guy’s going to hand me $50,000 in a few days, an Avalanche, a Harley. Those are great incentives to say whatever you want me to say,” West said.
Also in taped evidence previously shown in court, West claimed to have knowledge of two other murders, and tried to cut a deal with two investigators to provide details of those crimes. Among his terms was that he be moved from “the hole” (the segregation unit) in prison.
On Thursday, he said he lied about the other murders because he was desperate.
“I was being ill-treated, bullied, numerous times a day every day … I would have said anything you wanted me to say to get out of the situation I was in and get in a better situation.”
West’s trial began Sept. 11 and is expected to wrap up next week, with a later date to be scheduled for the judge’s verdict.
Moir was convicted of Acorn’s murder in February 2010 and is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.