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North Vancouver man accused of killing his aunt pleads not guilty to second-degree murder

Anthony Santos Del Rosario was released from police custody just hours before he was arrested for the December 2022 killing
A police officer enters the scene of a murder in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood on Dec. 14, 2022. | Alanna Kelly / Glacier Media

A North Vancouver RCMP officer who entered the apartment of Dominga Santos on Dec. 13, 2022 found the 68-year-old woman lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood with her nephew Anthony Santos Del Rosario on top of her.

The grisly scene was described by Crown counsel Michaela Donnelly in the opening statements of a trial in B.C. Supreme Court Monday, where Del Rosario faces a charge of second-degree murder.

Del Rosario, who has been in custody since his arrest, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Wearing a bright red inmate’s sweat suit, with his wavy black hair tied into a ponytail, Del Rosario sat in the prisoner’s dock next to a Tagalog interpreter as Donnelly started by outlining events leading up to his arrest.

Neighbours at 225 West Third St. called police just before 11 a.m. on the Dec. 13 morning, after hearing sounds, Donnelly told the court. When North Vancouver RCMP arrived at the building shortly after 11 a.m., the sounds had stopped, but officers spoke to tenants on the third floor of the apartment building. While they were there, Dominga’s sister Rosita Santos arrived to visit her sibling, the court heard.

Inside the apartment, police found Del Rosario and Dominga Santos, who had “very obvious” injuries, which included multiple wounds to her chest, Donnelly said.

Cpl. James Lavalee – the crime scene manger with the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team – testified Monday about what police found after they searched the apartment and Del Rosario’s vehicle under a search warrant on Dec. 14, 2022.

Lavallee described what appeared to be “multiple puncture wounds” to the victim’s chest and markings on her face, which appeared to have sustained “multiple strikes.”

Among the items seized from the apartment under warrant were bodily substances, finger prints, beverage cans, knives and a pair of scissors, Lavallee said.

Donnelly noted there was blood on the inner handles and serrated blade of the scissors. DNA of both Santos and Del Rosario was found on the scissors, the court heard.

Police also seized personal identification of the accused and mail addressed to him at the 225 West Third St. address, as well as a violation ticket.

One photo showed blankets laid out on the floor in an apparent “sleeping area.”

Crown counsel also had Lavallee review images of Del Rosario’s Toyota Rav4, which contained boxes of clothing, items related to Del Rosario’s work as a delivery driver, as well as two glass pipes and a small baggy containing a “white substance,” which later analysis determined was primarily crystal methamphetamine, Lavallee said.

Del Rosario realeased from North Vancouver RCMP custody early morning on Dec. 13

Another police officer, Const. Darius Biro, testified about his interactions with Del Rosario the evening before and early in the morning on the day of the homicide.

Biro said he was dispatched to the McDonald’s at 2601 Westview Dr. in North Vancouver on Dec. 12, after restaurant staff called police complaining of an intoxicated man who had knocked over a hand sanitizer station and was taking other customers’ food.

Upon arriving around 7:45 p.m., staff pointed out Del Rosario, who Biro said smelled of alcohol from several feet away. Biro said he arrested Del Rosario for causing a disturbance and put him in the back of the police cruiser. He then gave Del Rosario the option of either going to the RCMP detachment to sober up, or being dropped off at his home where someone could watch over him. A record check showed Del Rosario lived at the 225 West Third St. address, the officer told the court.

Del Rosario agreed to go to that address, where he said his wife lived, Biro testified.

When they arrived at the apartment building, the officer followed the accused to the front door. But then Del Rosario suddenly turned and ran off, the court heard.

A short foot chase followed, and Del Rosario was tackled and re-arrested a second time and taken back to the detachment, Biro added.

At first, Biro said he noticed the accused was “fidgety.” Via a live video feed of the cell, the officer said he saw Del Rosario pacing back and forth, and kicking.

“That arose my suspicion with a previous file that he had, where he was apprehended under the Mental Health Act,” Biro told the court.

In these situations, the officer said he was trained to ask basic questions like, “Are you hearing voices?” and, “Are you having any thoughts of wanting to harm yourself?”

After speaking to the accused, Biro said, “He replied that he does hear voices that tell him to hurt himself.”

At that point, the officer said he spoke with his supervisor, the North Vancouver RCMP watch commander, Sgt. David Potts.

Following their conversation, Biro and Potts went into the accused’s cell, Crown counsel said.

“You just don’t remember that interaction – you just saw it on the video [later on]?” Donnelly said.

“Yes,” Biro said.

“What did you decide to do after that?” Donnelly asked.

“We decided to just give it a couple more hours until he sobers up and ask those questions again, and go from there,” Biro said.

At around 1 a.m. in the morning on Dec. 13, Biro went back to Del Rosario’s cell and said the accused’s demeanor had changed.

“When he was asked what his plans were for the day, he said he wanted to go home and sleep because he had work in the afternoon,” Biro said. “He seemed to understand where he was and what was happening.”

The officer offered Del Rosario a ride home, which was declined, the court heard. After collecting his belongings, the accused was released from the North Vancouver RCMP detachment.

Less than 11 hours later, Del Rosario was arrested for the murder of his aunt.

The trial continued on Tuesday and is scheduled to continue next week, before adjourning until the end of April when the defence’s case will begin.

Among witnesses expected to testify are three neighbours who live in the apartment building, an ambulance paramedic, an RCMP blood splatter analyst and the forensic pathologist who carried out the autopsy.

The victim’s sibling Rosita Santos is also scheduled to testify.

The trial continues.