Confession admitted into evidence at murder trial
Mike Nestoruk, 42, was found dead on the grounds of Sir Guy Carleton Elementary School in Vancouver on April 9, 2009. (Postmedia Network files)
A marginalized Vancouver drug addict confessed to an undercover police officer posing as a crime boss that he killed a wheelchair-bound homeless man in 2009 by smashing a rock across his head.
Aaron Dale Power also told the officer during a 2014 “Mr. Big” scenario that Michael Nestoruk had pulled a knife on him before Power struck the fatal blows on April 8, 2009.
Power’s lawyer had argued to B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper that the confession should be inadmissible because police took advantage of Power’s addiction and health problems during the 14-week undercover probe.
And the defence said the confession was unreliable, pointing to two other murders for which Power took credit that police later determined had never happened.
But Gropper ruled Friday the confession would be admitted in his trial and that the controversial Mr. Big investigation was appropriately conducted in the circumstances.
She said Power, while addicted and indigent, was “prepared and methodical” in the work he undertook for the fake criminal organization.
“Mr. Power made a spontaneous confession,” she said, adding that his tone was “conversation” and not the result of coercion by the officers.
“Mr. Power was relatively sophisticated. He was and is intelligent.”
She also said that details provided by Power in the confession matched other “hold-back” evidence in the case.
Nestoruk, 42, was last seen on video surveillance leaving a 7-Eleven store and wheeling himself in the direction of the Sir Guy Carleton elementary school at Joyce Street and Kingsway Avenue.
His bloodied half-naked body was found in some shrubs at the school the next day by a mother dropping off her child.
The woman also saw a wheelchair in a long jump sand pit, as well as blood pools and drag marks from the long jump pit to the location of the body.
Police later found a pair of jeans, a single shoe and a bloody rock nearby.
Power was a suspect almost immediately after the murder of Nestoruk, who was also an addict and allegedly met and did drugs with Power on the day he died.
But despite a rigorous Vancouver Police investigation, there was not enough evidence in the case.
So in January 2014, undercover officers posing as members of a crime group befriended Power in an effort to get admissions from him.
Police paid Power more than $11,000 for work he did on behalf of the purported gang during dozens of scenarios set up by the officers.
Gropper cited instances where Power told the officers that they had become his best friends and he was grateful for the chance to work with them.
At one point he told "Mr. Big" that “working for (him) had given (Power) a great life. It was the best thing that every happened to him,” Gropper noted.
Nestoruk had been paralyzed in 1983 as a teenager when he had fallen off the roof of the same elementary school where he later died. The fall caused a broken back, a severed spinal cord and a crushed heel.
He was confined to a wheelchair initially, but managed to return to school and find work before marrying his high school sweetheart in 1992 and having two children with her.
Court heard Nestoruk could walk with a brace and found work as a courier, but chronic pain and multiple surgeries led to a dependency on cocaine and heroin.
The trial has now been adjourned until early 2018.