‘I just can’t imag­ine how scared he was …’

Guilty plea in 13-year-old homi­cide case leaves Page fam­ily with mixed emo­tions

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - SU­SAN CLAIRMONT

IT 13

TOOK YEARS and an elab­o­rate un­der­cover po­lice op­er­a­tion to get to this bit­ter­sweet mo­ment for the fam­ily of homi­cide vic­tim Jay Page. Richard Ben­nett, one of four men who burst into Jay’s apart­ment at gun­point hop­ing to find a stash of mar­i­juana, pleaded guilty to man­slaugh­ter Thurs­day in a short and sim­ple court ap­pear­ance. His ar­rest for first-de­gree mur­der in De­cem­ber 2013 came af­ter he ad­mit­ted his part in the deadly home in­va­sion to an un­der­cover cop. Ben­nett, 41, an­swered “Uh, guilty,” when asked how he would plead to the re­duced charge of man­slaugh­ter.

An agreed state­ment of facts was read in court. But with no trial, the full story of Jay’s mur­der may never be told. That is hard to ac­cept, his par­ents, Roger and Mar­lene Page, say.

“We’re worn out,” Mar­lene says, weep­ing. “So we are grate­ful that this is over for now. But we are dis­ap­pointed that all the de­tails won’t be heard.”

Ben­nett and Jay, 29, worked to­gether at Gen­tek, a fac­tory in Burling­ton. Ben­nett had been to Jay’s apart­ment on Grosvenor Av­enue South in Hamilton a cou­ple of times, court heard. Jay lived there with his girl­friend, Crys­tal Burns.

In July 2004, Jay men­tioned he would soon be buy­ing weed “for his own use.” Ben­nett said he could score bet­ter weed for Jay at a lower price.

Ben­nett then told his drug dealer friend, Shaka Reid (who has since died), about Jay. Ben­nett and Reid had ripped off drug users be­fore and a plan was hatched to do this to Jay.

Ben­nett would pre­tend to visit Jay and the oth­ers would force their way in be­hind him.

“This would al­low Ben­nett to ap­pear to be un­in­volved,” ac­cord­ing to the agreed facts, “which was im­por­tant to Ben­nett since he worked with Mr. Page and would ex­pect to see him at work again af­ter the rob­bery.”

It was af­ter 10:30 p.m. on July 28, 2004 that Ben­nett, Reid and two other men were driven by Aurick Ver­nal, to Jay’s apart­ment. When Jay opened his door to Ben­nett, the other men pushed in­side. At least two men had hand­guns. All four were wear­ing gloves. “I just can’t imag­ine how scared he was when they charged in the door with guns,” Mar­lene says.

Reid and his two pals held Jay and Ben­nett at gun­point, with Ben­nett feign­ing in­no­cence. Jay — who was six feet and seven inches tall — was forced to the kitchen floor, his hands and feet bound by zip ties. He man­aged to break his hands free, but his cap­tors used shoelaces to tie him up again.

In the court­room, lis­ten­ing to th­ese de­tails, was Jay’s son, Parker, a tall teen in size 15 Con­verse run­ning shoes. He was seven when his dad was killed.

Ben­nett searched the apart­ment, but found no pot. Mean­while, Burns called home. Ben­nett an­swered and said Jay was in the shower. Burns thought the man’s voice sounded like one of Jay’s co­work­ers named Richard.

Even­tu­ally, Jay was stran­gled with a cord, hit in the head with a gun and “stabbed many times with a knife by Shaka Reid, in­clud­ing a large stab wound to the neck,” court heard.

“Ben­nett had not planned or in­tended for Page to be in­jured dur­ing the rob­bery,” says the agreed state­ment.

Be­fore leav­ing the apart­ment 90 min­utes af­ter they ar­rived, the men took Jay’s wal­let. Reid would try to use Jay’s bank card at two ATMs be­fore head­ing to the home of Ben­nett’s girl­friend, Kizzy Bap­tiste.

Jay’s girl­friend found his body when she came home af­ter work­ing a night shift.

A few days later, Jay’s jacket and wal­let were found in a flower box be­hind Hamilton City Hall. DNA in­side the jacket matched Ben­nett’s.

Four sets of homi­cide de­tec­tives have worked on Jay’s file over the years. Even­tu­ally, they launched Project Chap­ter, an un­der­cover op­er­a­tion tar­get­ing Ben­nett.

De­tails of the op­er­a­tion are re­duced to just a few para­graphs in the agreed state­ment of facts. Ben­nett was in­tro­duced to two un­der­cover cops. To one, he ad­mit­ted his in­volve­ment in the death of Jay. There is an au­dio record­ing of that, but it was not played in court Thurs­day.

The other un­der­cover cop played the part of a busi­ness­man in­volved in the drug trade. Ben­nett sold him two ounces of co­caine for $3,000.

On Thurs­day, Ben­nett also pleaded guilty to traf­fick­ing co­caine. Sen­tenc­ing for both con­vic­tions will take place Sept. 6.

No other ar­rests have been made in Jay’s homi­cide.

Mar­lene and Roger say, through tears, that they have met many good and kind peo­ple who have worked hard on Jay’s case. They specif­i­cally want to thank Det. An­gela Abrams and vic­tim ser­vices co-or­di­na­tor Su­san Dou­ble.

“Some days are still hard,” says Roger, wip­ing away tears.

Jay Page was killed in 2004 dur­ing an at­tempt to steal mar­i­juana be­lieved to be in his apart­ment.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Roger and Mar­lene Page, par­ents of mur­der vic­tim Jay Page, still want to know just what hap­pened to their son.

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