Accomplice in grisly North Vancouver homicide gets five years

A Richmond man was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for his part in a 2015 abduction plot that eventually led to the killing of another man, Peng Sun, in a North Vancouver house.

Crown counsel Jennifer Dyck described Casey James Hiscoe’s role in both a ransom plot and the attempted disposal of Sun’s body, while Hiscoe’s mother and girlfriend sat in the courtroom.

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Hiscoe was sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit unlawful confinement and accessory after the fact to murder.

The co-accused in the case, 24-year-old Tian Yi “Eddie” Zhang of West Vancouver, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for manslaughter and unlawful confinement in February.

According to an agreed statement of facts entered as part of the sentencing hearing, Hiscoe, 23, worked as a poker dealer in an illegal gambling operation being run by Zhang.

Hiscoe introduced Zhang to an individual only identified as “Jay,” with the understanding Zhang would target wealthy individuals for ransom operations, according to the statement of facts.

Zhang eventually targeted Peng Sun, a young man he’d known for about three years. Sun drove his white Bentley to a house in North Vancouver , with the understanding he was going to a party.

Hiscoe was at the house but ducked out and headed for Richmond shortly before Sun arrived at 6 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2015.

Zhang took Sun into a basement covered with plastic where “Jay” and others were waiting with Tasers, zap straps and handcuffs, according to the statement of facts.

At 8:30 p.m. Zhang made the first in a series of ransom calls from Sun’s phone, demanding 12 million Chinese Yuan, roughly $2.5 million Canadian.

“Dad, someone has a gun to my head; they want money.” Sun said  in Mandarin.

While Zhang was calling Sun’s parents in China, Hiscoe drove by Sun’s house to check for signs the police had been alerted, the prosecutor told the court. Seeing no police cruisers, he messaged Zhang: “Nothing,” and: “we’re good.”

Sun’s parents eventually acceded to Zhang’s instructions and transferred $340,000 to a Chinese bank account. The money has not been recovered.

Zhang made the last call to Sun’s parents at about 1 a.m. However, at about midnight Hiscoe found out Sun was dead. Over about 45 minutes, Hiscoe sent Zhang a number of We Chat messages, detailing how to clean up and remove evidence “in an effort to insulate both Zhang and himself from the crime” according to the statement of facts.

However, Sun’s wife recognized Zhang’s voice from one of the ransom calls, and by 2 a.m. that night North Vancouver RCMP had emergency authorization to set up a wiretap to listen in on Zhang.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, police found Sun’s Bentley parked near Sykes Road and Wellington Drive in North Vancouver and set up surveillance.

While officers staked out the car, a host of officers from Coquitlam, North Vancouver, West Vancouver and Burnaby RCMP watched Zhang.

Zhang and Hiscoe messaged each other after the killing, eventually concocting a plan to move Sun’s body from the trunk of his Bentley to the trunk of Zhang’s rental car. To facilitate the transfer, Hiscoe recruited two other men, who were only told they were “moving a package.”

In her submission to the court, Crown counsel Jennifer Dyck suggested the most aggravating factor in the case was that Hiscoe got two “unwitting individuals involved.”

At about 3 a.m. on Sept. 29, 2015, Hiscoe arrived at the Lynn Valley meetup, chauffeuring the two men he’d recruited in a car registered to Zhang’s mother-in-law. Zhang showed up afterward, backing up his rental car until it was trunk to trunk with the Bentley.

Once the trunk was popped and Sun’s body was put in the rental car, police swarmed the scene, arresting the four men.

Police found Sun wrapped in a tarp. He’d been stripped to his underwear, his face wrapped in duct tape and his hands and feet bound. The autopsy revealed Sun was strangled by a zap strap.

Shortly before sentencing, Hiscoe showed contrition.

“I have aided in taking someone’s brother, someone’s son, beloved family member away,” he said, explaining he wasn’t looking for sympathy but only wanted to acknowledge the repercussions of his actions. “The devastating impacts that that family’s going to have to live with for the rest of their lives because of my naiveté and just pure stupidity.”

Hiscoe was also sentenced for assault stemming from an incident earlier in September 2015. At the behest of Zhang, an associate left his house and sat in the passenger seat of Zhang’s car, at which point Hiscoe grabbed his face with both hands from the back seat and told the struggling man: “Don’t move, we will kill you.”

The man managed to break away and make it back to his home.

While far less serious than Hiscoe’s other crimes, the assault carries “ominous tones” when viewed in light of the following homicide, noted Justice Terence Schultes.

Hiscoe was wearing gloves at the time of the assault but was identified after police found his DNA on a cigarette found near the scene.

The defence and prosecution generally agreed on a seven-year sentence for Hiscoe, less time served. However, Crown counsel Jennifer Dyck emphasized the need for a sentence that would denounce his actions.

“His moral culpability is high and that the gravity of the offence is great.”

Dyck also listed previous offences, including a 2013 group assault in which Hiscoe bear-sprayed a victim.

While being clear he didn’t want to minimize the tragedy, defense counsel David Ferguson discussed his client’s troubled childhood. At 12, Hiscoe was beaten by his father with a pop can, an assault that led to the family’s dissolution.

Ferguson also noted that Hiscoe has recently removed several negative influences from his life.

While there are a number of mitigating factors, the judge noted that confining people for profit is the “hallmark of other places in the world where perhaps the rule of law isn’t as strong.”

Hiscoe was sentenced to five years, eight months and eight days in jail in addition to time served.

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