Duo Accused in 06 Killings Freed on Bail

Prosecutor told court Crown would be unlikely to succeed 'if we were to oppose bail'

Two men charged in a double homicide who have been in custody for 17 months were released on bail Wednesday after a brief court appearance in Halifax.

Justice Felix Cacchione of Nova Scotia Supreme Court granted bail, with several conditions, to Nathaniel Sparks and Jerrell Johnston after reviewing an application for their release under the provinces new adult bail supervision program.

Mr. Sparks and Mr. Johnston, who are accused of killing Brandon Beals, 21, and Martaze Provo, 25, on Dec. 10, 2006, in East Preston, sat quietly in court.

Formerly of Cherry Brook, they are each charged with two counts of second-degree murder and a single count of attempted murder and are to go to trial early next year.

Crown attorney Art Theuerkauf agreed to the release of the accused with the conditions Justice Cacchione imposed. Mr. Theuerkauf had told the court earlier the Crown would likely not be successful "if we were to oppose bail."

Mr. Beal’s uncle, Ronald David of North Preston, said the murder suspects "never should have got bail." He said the release conditions are meaningless to him.

"The justice systems got to get itself right," Mr. David told The Chronicle Herald.

Wednesday’s court appearance by the accused wasn’t a formal bail hearing but a hearing to go over terms of an agreement each defendant signed Monday with the correctional services division of the provincial Justice Department.

The release conditions include: Mr. Sparks and Mr. Johnston can’t leave the province, they have been fitted with ankle bracelets to electronically monitor their whereabouts, the men can’t contact each other or witnesses scheduled to testify at trial, each is prohibited from having weapons, they must keep away from East Preston, North Preston, Lake Echo, Lake Major Road, Crane Hill Road and Bell Road, they must be available for phone check-ins by Justice Department staff, they are subject to visits from police, they must abide by a daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and they must report to probation staff.

Each defendant has a job to go to, court heard. They are not allowed to change residences unless they apply through the court to do so.
Mr. Sparks lives in an apartment in Dartmouth. Mr. Johnston lives in a house in the Westphal-Cole Harbour area.

Part of their electronic supervision includes voice-verification by computer, the Crown said.

"They have some computer software program that they get a sample voice (pattern) from each, and this program has some way of identifying the voice," Mr. Theuerkauf said.

Justice Cacchione told the defendants the crimes they’re alleged to have committed are "very serious perhaps the most serious charge in the Criminal Code." He warned each man the monitoring system they are to adhere to is absolute.

"You stray a couple of inches over that line," said Justice Cacchione, "you’re going to find yourselves back in custody."

Mr. Sparks, 27, and Mr. Johnston, 26, were arrested in connection with an attack in East Preston that resulted in the shooting of four people, two of whom died.

The suspects were picked up by police in Western Canada about six months after the shootings.

Mr. Beals and Mr. Provo died after they were shot outside a house party on Upper Partridge Road. Two other people were injured. Police believe the four victims went to the party together, and a fight broke out early in the morning that led to the shootings.

According to the Justice Departments website, the adult bail supervision program aims to ease crowding in jails and help suspects comply with their release conditions.

Justice Cacchione said he was satisfied that under terms of the release agreements Mr. Sparks and Mr. Johnston signed this week, "both accused ought to be released."

The defendants are each free on sureties provided by relatives. Their jury trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 2 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

This isn’t the first time co-defendants accused of murder in this province have been granted bail. Last year, brothers Shane Ward, 34, of Waverley and Mathew Ward, 32, of Dartmouth were released and placed under house arrest at separate addresses.

They are charged in the death of Philip Love, 34, who was beaten inside his east-end Dartmouth home in 2007. The victim died in hospital.

A third accused, Bradley Martin, 25, of Dartmouth is charged with being an accessory after the fact. He was also granted bail last year and is under house arrest.

(mlightstone@herald.ca)