By Morgan O’Neal
An elaborate sting investigation into a British Columbia homicide has unexpectedly led to uncovering a 31/2-year-old unsolved death in Saskatchewan. Brian Robert Casement was the target of the sting, dubbed Project Erving, which was looking into the 2003 death of Scotty Hauser from Vernon, B.C. As part of the operation, officers pretended to be members of a sophisticated criminal organization with national and international ties. The project began in October 2003 and was interrupted twice when Casement went to jail for reasons not presented in court. The project resumed when he was released. In all, he participated in more than 50 criminal scenarios.
Casement clearly wanted to join the fake organization and hoped the “crime boss” could help him avoid responsibility in Scotty Hauser’s death. Casement admitted he had attacked Hauser, striking him in the head with a wrench and strangling him before leaving the body in a dumpster—all because Hauser owed him $100 for crack cocaine. The undercover officer pressed Casement for greater detail, insisting there had been some other cause of death. “There absolutely was nothing else,” Casement said. “I am astounded the coroner said he wasn’t strangled. I thought that was an easy thing to determine.” The coroner’s report concluded Hauser died from a cocaine overdose. No one has been charged in Hauser’s death.
After interviewing Casement, the officer involved stated “the investigation took a sudden twist” and became an investigation into the 2002 disappearance and death of an aboriginal woman from Saskatoon: 21-year-old Victoria Jane Nashacappo.
Casement is now on trial for first degree murder. At trial, jurors watched the June 23, 2006 videotaped interview in which he describes picking up a young, Native “hooker” in Saskatoon. Believing he was talking with the head of a criminal organization who could protect him from the consequences of murder, Casement feels free to describe strangling a young woman to death after raping her. His psychotic rationale that “dead people don’t talk” is captured on video.
Casement said that when Victoria realized she was “in trouble,” she told him, “I’ve always wondered if this would happen.” After that, Casement says that he raped her, then she got up and said, “Can I go now?” and he answered, “I don’t think so,” and strangled Victoria with his hands.
Jurors at the Court of Queen’s Bench also watched another video made three days after the first in which Casement met with two undercover officers he thought were members of the criminal organization, believing they were there to help him get rid of the victim’s body and any evidence that would link him to the crime. Casement directed them to a site 20 km south of Saskatoon where he had left the body in a vegetable cellar under an old house. Again, he explained on video how he had raped and murdered Victoria. Casement, once an ambulance attendant, described strangulation with sophisticated clinical, anatomical terms. He said he threw the victim’s clothes and backpack on top of the body and covered them with wooden debris.
Outside of court, the victim’s mother, Betty Ann Nashacappo-Smith, spoke about the emotional impact the evidence has had on her. “It was shocking listening to him talking about her like she’s not even a person. I felt really offended and insulted. Taking my daughter and throwing her out like trash.” Clearly shaken, Nashacappo-Smith told CBC News, it was difficult listening to the tapes. “It’s pretty hard. Unbelievable!” she said.
Victoria Nashacappo’s sister Crystal testified that Victoria had been fighting an addiction to morphine and sometimes sold sex for money to buy the drug. Prior to her disappearance, Victoria had also resumed a long-term relationship with Clinton Horse and was attempting to complete her high school accreditation. When she didn’t come home for three days, her family filed a missing persons report and posted flyers, and her case was profiled on websites containing information on missing Native women across Canada. At the trial, Horse helped identify the victim, describing a blue, heart and ribbon tattoo with his initials on it that distinguished Victoria’s hand. His deep voice dropped to a near whisper when shown the pages of a school binder found in the victim’s backpack. “That’s her writing. That’s my name. That’s her name,” said Horse.
As hard as it is, Victoria’s mother is glad the trial has started. Her daughter’s body was not discovered until June 27, 2006. “[She was missing] three years, nine months and two days. That’s an awfully long time to keep counting,” Betty Ann said. “I suffered a long time carrying this.”