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Murder trial hears bloody testimony

NV man and one other accused of axe killing on logging road

A key witness in a B.C. Supreme Court murder trial described Thursday how Babak Najafi-Chaghabouri of North Vancouver stood over him and threatened him moments after a drug dealer was killed up a logging road on Feb.23, 2009.

"He said to me: 'You see how quick I chopped this guy up? If you say anything to anyone I'll chop you up,'" Travis Winterlik testified.

Winterlik said he told Najafi-Chaghabouri: "I'll never tell anyone. I'll never a tell a soul."

"He said, "If I can't get to you, I'm in this gang. Someone will get to you.'"

Winterlik said Najafi-Chaghabouri, who he knew as "Tony", had blood on his hands. After "Tony" told him to keep quiet, the two men walked back towards a car where Ronak Wagad had previously been shoved in the trunk.

"I took a quick glimpse into the trunk," said Winterlik. "It was all full of blood. The hatchet was there covered in blood."

Winterlik, who is not facing charges, is the star witness in the trial of Najafi-Chaghabouri, 27, and a second man, Charles Anthony Leslie, 31, who are both on trial before B.C. Supreme Court justice Barry Davies for the murder of Ronak "Ronny" Wagad, whose body was discovered in the bush near Chilliwack on July 8, 2009.

Winterlik, 27, told the court Wednesday that he and Leslie frequently purchased and resold large quantities of drugs from Wagad and it seemed the two men were on good terms.

"He said Ronny was a good guy, one of the better guys to deal with," Winterlik said. "When I met him he seemed very friendly, very out-going. He didn't give you a hard time or act all macho."

But as Winterlik got to know Leslie better, a secret grudge came to light. Leslie's girlfriend, with whom he has a child, had had sex with Wagad about a year before Winterlik met Leslie.

"It came out after a while he hated him," Winterlik said. "Charles really hated him."

Winterlik said he wasn't sure exactly why Leslie made up his mind to kill Wagad, but believed the men had "some kind of a fight."

Winterlik said he and Leslie enlisted Najafi-Chaghabouri and met at his North Vancouver apartment the night of Feb. 22 to plot the killing.

"Charles said, 'I want to rob him, I want to kill him,'" Winterlik testified. Their plan was to bind Wagad with duct tape "like on TV" and dump his body in the ocean.

Winterlik said he had consumed two pills of ecstasy and 15 beers that night, and said he recalled Najafi-Chaghabouri was smoking crack. "I was pretty messed up," he said.

The men returned to Leslie's downtown Vancouver apartment and Winterlik slept for a few hours. In the morning, he said, Leslie was still "gung-ho with this horrible idea."

Leslie produced two kitchens knives and a hatchet, Winterlik said. When he asked what the hatchet was for, Winterlik testified, Leslie replied, "That's what I'm going to kill him with."

The three men drove over to Wagad's upscale West End apartment in Leslie's Dodge Charger and confronted Wagad in the parking garage. After a struggle, they overpowered him and tied him up with duct tape.

According to Winterlik, Wagad begged for mercy as Leslie slapped him and struck him with the hatchet. They put more duct tape over his mouth and Najafi-Chaghabouri tried to calm down the struggling Wagad and get him into a hockey bag, Winterlik said. They eventually managed to get him into the trunk of the Charger, he said. Leaving the parkade, they agreed to drive to Chilliwack, Najafi-Chaghabouri in Wagad's Jeep.

With help from Winterlik, RCMP officers discovered Wagad's remains in July 2009, in an isolated area east of Chilliwack, where the Crown believes the killing took place. Earlier in the trial Dr. Danny Straathof told the court the cause of death was repeated blows to the head with a sharp instrument.

In dramatic testimony Thursday, Winterlik described how Wagad got out of the trunk and tried to run for his life when they stopped the car off a Highway 1 exit near Chilliwack. "Ronnie got out and he started to run," he said.

But Winterlik said Najafi-Chaghabouri pulled up soon after in the Jeep and chased Wagad down, tackling him into a ditch and putting him in a headlock. Winterlik and Najafi-Chaghabouri then dragged Wagad and shoved him back in the trunk.

"He tried to put his hands out," said Winterlik, described how Wagad struggled to free himself. "I heard him yelp in pain as we were closing the trunk on him."

When they were back in the car, Winterlik said Leslie told him Wagad knew what was going to happen. "Charles said to me he knew we were going to kill him or we wouldn't have brought him this far. 'He knows he's going to die.'"

After that, he said he and Leslie drove up a logging road with Wagad in the trunk of their car and Najafi-Chaghabouri following in the second vehicle. When they stopped the car, Leslie got out and opened the trunk.

"He said, 'Fuck my woman, you took my money. I fucking got you now,'" said Winterlik.

Winterlik said he told Leslie he was going to go and keep a lookout.

"Charles yelled to me and said: 'What, you don't want to watch? He was smiling and I turned around," said Winterlik. "I just shook my head."

Under questioning from Crown prosecutor David Butcher, Winterlik said he might have seen Leslie hit Wagad a couple of times before he walked away. Wagad was pleading with Leslie, saying, "'No Charlie. Please no,'" he said.

Winterlik said he never saw a weapon in anybody's hand.

He said he walked a short distance away and squatted down, remaining there for about 10 minutes until Najafi-Chaghabouri appeared.

After the two men walked back to the car and he saw blood in the trunk, Winterlik said he looked at Charles and asked "Where is he?"

He said Leslie replied, "We've already stripped him and put him in the bush."

Winterlik described how the three men drove back to Vancouver afterwards, with Najafi-Chaghabouri speeding ahead in the jeep, while he and Leslie burned Wagad's clothes, along with their own clothes, in an industrial area down near the Fraser River.

He said he and Leslie also went to Wagad's apartment that night and took drugs and money.

"Did you ever see Mr. Wagad again?" asked Butcher. "No," said Winterlik.

The trial continues.