By Lethbridge Herald on June 3, 2015.
An arson trial came to an unexpected and abrupt halt Tuesday after Crown prosecutors in the case issued a stay of proceedings.
After hearing testimony by several witnesses over 1 1/2 days of trial, Crown prosecutor Erin Olsen told Judge Jerry LeGrandeur a conviction was not likely given the evidence presented in court.
A stay of proceedings suspends any further action on a prosecution, although the Crown can re-institute the proceedings within a year. After one year the matter is stayed permanently.
Kathy Jean Petersen, 48, had been charged with one count of arson relating to a house fire May 23, 2014 in the 1200 block of 8 A Avenue South. And even though several Crown witnesses testified during the trial, including the home owner who had a relationship with Petersen, none of their evidence pointed directly to the accused.
“Miss Petersen is greatly relieved to have this matter behind her, and is satisfied with the decision of the Crown prosecutors,” said her lawyer Wade Hlady.
Neighbours testified Monday they heard Petersen, 49, and Dennis Bortolussi arguing outside his home the night of May 22, 2014. About 7:20 the next morning they were awakened by their dogs and saw the neighbour’s home on fire.
Bortolussi confirmed he and Petersen had been arguing the night before the fire. Petersen, he said, had been drinking, and he called police to have her removed from his home. But before police arrived Petersen got in her vehicle and drove away.
Bortolussi stayed at his mother’s home that night, and when he returned in the morning he could tell someone had been in his home. While he waited for police to arrive, he unlocked the front door and smoke billowed out.
Investigators determined the fire was the result of arson and a warrant was issued for Petersen, who was arrested several days later.
A friend of the accused, Pete Lubocki, testified Tuesday that Petersen came to his home in Okotoks sometime after the fire, but he couldn’t remember exactly when she came or specifically what they talked about. And when Olsen suggested Petersen and Lubocki discussed what Lubocki should tell police, he told court he couldn’t remember that conversation. He told the lawyer during cross-examination, however, that Petersen never asked him to lie to police.
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