May 18th, 2024

Judge rejects claims of self-defence, finds Tailfeathers guilty of manslaughter

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on May 3, 2024.

Family members stand with Emery Grier outside of the courthouse on Thursday, as a judge found Cullen Drake Tailfeathers guilty of manslaughter in the death of Grier's son nearly three years ago in a Fort Macleod home. - Herald photo by Ian Martens


Cullen Drake Tailfeathers was not acting in self-defence when he brutally beat to death a much smaller Linden Blair Grier nearly three years ago in a Fort Macleod home, a Lethbridge judge has determined.

“The facts show me, that he intended to inflict harm on Mr. Grier,” Justice Kristin Ailsby said Thursday in Lethbridge court of justice. “This was not a consensual fight…it was an attack, there was no consent on the part of Mr. Grier.”

During his trial earlier this year, Tailfeathers testified he did not want to fight Grier during the early morning hours of May 24, 2021, and that he only hit the smaller man to “get him off me” during an altercation.

However, Ailsby didn’t believe him. She said Tailfeathers’ evidence was not credible, and Thursday she found him guilty of manslaughter.

“It’s about time,” the victim’s father, Emery Grier, said following the judge’s decision. “He hasn’t seen a day in jail yet. It’s been three long years of waiting. He needs to see some jail time for murdering my son.”

Emery said even though the judge’s verdict provides the family some closure, his son’s death continues to impact family members.

“It’s been a very big impact on my family. He was my only son, he has two sisters that miss him dearly, he had three small kids that he left behind.”

Grier said he’s relieved the judge rejected the defence claim that Tailfeathers, who is six feet, six inches tall and 270 pounds, was only trying to defend himself against his five-foot- seven-inch, 150-pound son.

“There’s no self-defence there. My son was ambushed.”

Calgary lawyer Jim Lutz admitted during closing arguments at the conclusion of Tailfeathers’ trial in January, that Grier died from an altercation with Tailfeathers, but he suggested his client was only defending himself.

Lutz told court that when the two men came face to face in the Fort Macleod home in 2021, Grier raised his fists in an invitation to fight, and Tailfeathers, who was fearful and felt threatened, threw the first punch. From there the two men swapped blows until Grier was knocked unconscious and fell into the toilet, resulting in his death.

“The offence itself has been proven,” Lutz told Ailsby Jan. 26. “Now, the aspect for this court to consider, is whether or not the offence is self-defence would be applicable in this case. That’s the real issue. Mr. Tailfeathers agrees that he engaged in an altercation with Mr. Grier, and Mr. Grier died as a result of it.”

The Crown contended that Tailfeathers, in a fit of jealousy, went to his former girlfriend’s home to confront Grier, and when he saw the smaller man he immediately began beating him about the head while Chantelle English tried to make him stop.

Court heard during the trial that the relationship between English and Tailfeathers was deteriorating, and during the evening of May 23 Chantelle sent Tailfeathers insulting and hurtful text messages. She also posted a Snapchat picture of herself and a shirtless Grier drinking together.

Tailfeathers drove from Cardston to English’s home, and according to English, he walked into the house, demanded to know who else was there, then charged into the basement where he met Grier standing near the bottom of the stairs.

“He just started beating the sh-t out of him,” English testified. “He was punching him in the head multiple times, and I was yelling and screaming, trying to tell him to stop.”

English said she stood between the two men, but she couldn’t stop Tailfeathers from reaching over her and punching Grier.

After Grier was knocked unconscious, Tailfeathers left.

The accused’s version of events differed drastically. Tailfeathers said he didn’t know Grier was in the home, and when he arrived at the apartment he knocked and English opened the door. He went downstairs to collect some of his belongings and was met by Grier. Tailfeathers admitted he threw the first punch after they met, then the two began to fight.

“He approached me like he wanted to fight,” Tailfeathers said.

He said the combatants then took turns hitting each other in the face and head, first Tailfeathers then Grier. Several blows later Tailfeathers hit Grier under the right ear, causing him to stumble back. When Grier recovered and appeared about to re-engage, Tailfeathers hit him again above his left eye.

“At this point he became unconscious and he fell back into the toilet.”

Ailsby said Thursday that while there was an “air of reality” to the assertion of self-defence, evidence presented at trial showed he fully intended to confront Grier.

In response to English’s hurtful text messages to Tailfeathers, which she testified were meant to hurt and humiliate him, Tailfeathers texted back and said, among other things, “did you sleep with him? Who is it? Don’t worry, I’ll find out soon. I hope you’re ready, this is all your fault.” He also wrote, “I don’t want to go off my rocker and hurt someone. Talk to me or I’ll just come there, I have nothing less to lose. Watch me.”

Tailfeathers said he never intended to hurt or confront anyone, and only wrote the text messages to illicit a response from English, who was ignoring his text messages.

Ailsby didn’t buy it.

“At the conclusion of the evidence I did not believe his version of events on the night Mr. Grier died,” Ailsby said. “I accept the plain meaning communicated in these texts, and I reject the implausible description Mr. Tailfeathers offered about his messages, that is, that he didn’t mean what he wrote; he was just being dramatic to illicit a response from Miss English.

“I am satisfied that the texts Mr. Tailfeathers constructed and shared with and to Miss English, revealed his true motive.”

Ailsby did not sentence Tailfeathers Thursday, but remanded him into custody pending his sentencing hearing. She ordered the preparation of a Gladue Report to assist in sentencing, and adjourned the matter to Fort Macleod court on June 19 to determine if the report is completed and schedule a sentencing hearing, ostensibly for the last week of June.

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