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By IAN FAIRCLOUGH Valley Bureau, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thu. Jul 31 – 5:53 PM
ANNAPOLIS ROYAL An Annapolis County man was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder in the killing of bartender Peter Vanderpluijm in 2006.
Defence lawyer Joel Pink had argued that Jamie John Gregory, 29, was provoked into attacking Mr. Vanderpluijm in the Lawrencetown Legion when the 59-year retired sailor and Gulf War veteran pushed him off his stool on the night of Dec. 22.
Had the judge accepted that there was reasonable provocation and that Mr. Gregory reacted as one might expect an ordinary person to react, he would have been found guilty of manslaughter instead.
“I am unable to conclude that the punch thrown by Jamie Gregory meets the objective standards of the ordinary man,” Annapolis County Supreme Court Judge Kevin Coady said.
“His response … was not proportional and did not comply with the standard of self-control and restraint that is expected from all members of our society.”
Testimony and statements at the trial showed that Mr. Vanderpluijm wanted to close the legion for the night and shut down the video lottery machines early, but that Mr. Gregory wasn’t ready to leave.
In his statement to police Mr. Gregory, who had been drinking and was not taking his regular dose of antidepressants that night, said that he cursed twice at Mr. Vanderpluijm, who pushed him in response.
Mr. Gregory, who at 6’3” and 230 pounds was seven inches taller and more than 100 pounds heavier than Mr. Vanderpluijm, said he fell off his stool and angrily got up and punched the victim.
Mr. Vanderpluijm was thrown backwards by the force of the blow.
Mr. Gregory then knelt on him and punched him several more times in the head and face.
He said the victim was bleeding from the mouth and making a gurgling noise, so he grabbed a fire extinguisher and smashed him in the head three times because he thought the man was suffering. He then pinched his nostrils and put paper towel over his mouth to try to make the sound stop.
Mr. Vanderpluijm suffered skull and facial bone fractures, eight fractured ribs and damage to his neck including two fractures of a bone.
He also had bruising to his face, head, shoulders, arms, back of his hands and kidney, along with some lacerations on his head. An autopsy showed he died of blunt force trauma to the head.
After the attack Mr. Gregory emptied the cash register and took two bottles of liquor from the bar to make it look like there had been a robbery and left the bar. He was arrested the next day.
Judge Coady noted that there had been no animosity between the two men before the attack.
After the verdict, members of Mr. Vanderpluijm’s family hugged each other and cried.
“It’s like you’re happy and sad at the same time,” daughter Donna said of the verdict, explaining that while she’s happy Mr. Gregory was convicted of the more serious charge, her father’s violent death “is going to be with us for the rest of our lives.”
Mr. Vanderpluijm’s other daughter, Julie, said she was confident the verdict would be for second-degree murder, and now the family must look ahead to the sentencing in October.
Mr. Vanderpluijm’s widow Rosalind said that “I have a lot of things to say, but it’s all anger.”
Asked for comment, Mr. Pink said that he needs “some time to reflect on what the judge said. We will review his comments and decision and decide what our next step will be.”
He said he will be looking for a sentence with a lower parole eligibility, while Crown attorney Lloyd Lombard said he will be looking for the high end.
Second-degree murder carries a life sentence, with a minimum of 10 years to be served before there is any chance of parole.