Vancouver Sun

Ap­peal begins in 37-year-old child mur­der case

Tal­lio ap­peal hear­ing starts this month, 37 years af­ter con­vic­tion for killing child

- DAN FUMANO AND MATT ROBIN­SON dfu­mano@post­ mrobin­son@post­ Crime · Prison · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · British Columbia · Surrey · Vancouver · Bella Coola · Jim Turner

As the first hear­ing dates ap­proach this month for Phillip Tal­lio's his­toric bid to over­turn a decades-old mur­der con­vic­tion, the for­mer Bella Coola man is ad­just­ing to life out­side prison walls, re­con­nect­ing with fam­ily and mak­ing new friends while nav­i­gat­ing a pan­demic.

Tal­lio, who pleaded guilty in 1983 to the mur­der of a child but has main­tained his in­no­cence since then, is ex­pected to tes­tify at the first day of his ap­peal hear­ing at the B.C. Court of Ap­peal start­ing Oct. 13.

If Tal­lio's ap­peal is suc­cess­ful and his con­vic­tion over­turned, his nearly 37 years in jail would make Cana­dian le­gal his­tory as the long­est prison term served by some­one found to be wrong­fully convicted.

In Jan­uary of this year, Tal­lio was re­leased on bail pend­ing his ap­peal, which was orig­i­nally sched­uled for March. But weeks af­ter Tal­lio left jail — for the first time in his adult life — the COVID-19 pan­demic threw the court sys­tem and much of the rest of the world into limbo.

“It's quite ironic that once he was fi­nally out on bail, the whole world is now on house ar­rest,” said Tal­lio's lawyer Rachel Barsky.

“It's the first time he's been out in 37 years into the world, and the world is just a very dif­fer­ent place right now.”

But Tal­lio was “very grate­ful” he wasn't still in­car­cer­ated when COVID-19 hit, Barsky said, “be­cause he's men­tioned to me that in prison, all dis­eases spread like wild­fire.”

He's do­ing well, she said, liv­ing in a half­way house in the Fraser Val­ley await­ing his ap­peal.

Tal­lio's bail re­stric­tions pre­vent him from trav­el­ling to his home com­mu­nity in Bella Coola, where he was ar­rested in 1983 for mur­der­ing his 22-month-old rel­a­tive Delav­ina Mack.

Mem­bers and sup­port­ers of the Mack fam­ily, who op­posed Tal­lio's re­lease, say they will at­tend his ap­peal hear­ing.

Af­ter Tal­lio's re­lease this year, his younger brother, who was a child when Tal­lio was first in­car­cer­ated, came to the Lower Main­land to visit him. He brought tra­di­tional Nux­alk food that Tal­lio hadn't been able to en­joy in decades, in­clud­ing dried sal­mon, moose steak, ooli­gan grease, soap berries and her­ring eggs. It was an emo­tional re­union, Barksy said.

Tal­lio has been look­ing for part­time work, but has so far been un­suc­cess­ful, Barsky said, and his job-seek­ing ef­forts have been ham­pered by the pan­demic. But he has been en­joy­ing get­ting out­side, she said, bik­ing and go­ing for long walks.

An af­fi­davit filed in sup­port of Tal­lio's bail de­scribes when his “whole world crum­bled” in Septem­ber 2018, when his only child, Honey Hood, died sud­denly. Hood, born seven months af­ter Tal­lio's ar­rest in 1983, left be­hind three daugh­ters.

Tal­lio wrote in his af­fi­davit of want­ing “to meet my three grand­daugh­ters and to be able to pro­vide them with the life that their mother dreamt of build­ing for them.”

Marie Spetch, a for­mer cor­rec­tions guard who first met Tal­lio when he was a teen, and her daughter Robyn Ba­tryn are among those clos­est to Tal­lio. He calls them his adopted mom and sis­ter. They met with him when he first emerged from prison, but COVID-19 has since ended their in-per­son con­nec­tion, Ba­tryn said. Spetch, now 96, has de­men­tia and lives in a re­tire­ment home, but con­tin­ues to speak to Tal­lio by phone.

Ba­tryn said she was feel­ing good about the up­com­ing case, but she said Tal­lio is feel­ing “a lit­tle ap­pre­hen­sive” be­cause he doesn't know what's go­ing to hap­pen.

Tal­lio is now do­ing his own bud­get­ing and cooks for him­self, Ba­tryn said. An ear­lier af­fi­davit filed by Tal­lio stated that dur­ing his time in min­i­mum se­cu­rity prison he be­gan a ke­to­genic diet of fish, poul­try and veg­eta­bles, and had lost a sub­stan­tial amount of weight.

Ba­tryn and Spetch had at­tended many of Tal­lio's pre­vi­ous court dates, but they won't be go­ing to this one due to health con­cerns around the pan­demic.

“He knows that he's told the truth and for me, I think the truth al­ways pre­vails and hope­fully this will have some re­ally pos­i­tive out­comes,” she said.

While in prison Tal­lio be­friended Jim Turner, the owner of a Sur­rey-based truck­ing com­pany who had read about the case in The Van­cou­ver Sun and reached out to the pris­oner. Turner said his com­pany gave Tal­lio a few things he had wanted, like a stereo, some clothes and a gam­ing sys­tem, and they vis­ited him with warm lunches and helped with his can­teen needs.

Turner has been tak­ing Tal­lio out for meals since his re­lease, and in­tro­duced him to golf, which he has en­joyed. Turner's com­pany has since started a GoFundMe fundrais­ing cam­paign nam­ing Tal­lio as the ben­e­fi­ciary.

Tal­lio's ap­peal is ex­pected to last four weeks.

 ??  ?? Phillip Tal­lio en­joyed his first visit to a Star­bucks cof­fee shop af­ter spend­ing al­most 37 years in jail for the mur­der of a child he now says he didn't do.
Phillip Tal­lio en­joyed his first visit to a Star­bucks cof­fee shop af­ter spend­ing al­most 37 years in jail for the mur­der of a child he now says he didn't do.

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