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Two Berwick-area men are facing charges of first-degree murder in the case of a homeless man who died in a bus shelter fire last October.
Kyle David James Fredericks, 25, and Daniel Wayne Surette, 26, were charged on April 25 with first-degree murder in the death of Harley Lawrence, a 62-year-old homeless man who died in a bus shelter fire on Berwick's Commercial Street Oct. 23, 2013.
“Harley’s death was a shocking and senseless tragedy that shook our entire community. It shattered many people’s sense of safety and security and left many unanswered questions,” Insp. Chris MacNaughton said.
Along with Supt. Darrell Beaton, criminal operations officer for the Nova Scotia RCMP, MacNaughton held a press conference at the Berwick Lions’ Hall, with town officials, residents, media and the Lawrence family present.
“I’m very pleased and proud to bring positive news tonight announcing charges,” MacNaughton said. “It has been cumulative evidence over the past six months that has led to the arrest in recent hours.”
Both RCMP officials praised the town and the broader community, as well as the Lawrence family, for their patience and co-operation during the six-month investigation.
“Thank you for having the confidence in the RCMP to lead a thorough investigation that led us to today’s charges,” Beaton said.
MacNaughton said she hoped the charges would be a “step forward in the healing process for Harley’s family,” as well as the rest of the community.
“Throughout this investigation, many of you had questions that we were not in the position to answer,” she said. “As police, our responsibility is to protect the integrity of the investigation. I know at times that was hard to hear and perhaps did not make sense; however, our focus was to arrest and charge those responsible for Harley’s death.”
Both said there was no known relationship between the two accused and the victim. Neither officer would comment on how the two men arrested knew each other.
“Charge of first degree murder implies a degree of planning and deliberation, so I would be remiss to say it was random act,” Beaton said, “but, at the same time, we never felt that the community was at risk.”
Asked whether the RCMP would release the cause of death and results of an autopsy performed on the victim, Beaton said specific evidence would not be discussed.
MacNaughton confirmed the accused were known to police, but said she could not comment on their backgrounds.
Fredericks was arrested in Lower Sackville around 1:30 a.m. on April 25. He was recently acquitted in the case of another Kings County man’s death.
Fredericks was cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of Joshua Graves in February 2013. The Somerset man had been accused of criminal negligence causing death and trafficking a substance, hydromorphone, in relation to Graves’ death following a Berwick house party in March 2011.
Also arrested and charged with murder in the Lawrence death was Surette, a Berwick resident, who was arrested in Berwick around midnight on April 25. Surette also has a criminal history. He plead guilty to sexual assault in November 2012 and has served jail terms for assault, mischief, theft, failing to attend court, failing to report under the sex offenders registry, among other charges.
“Today’s first degree murder charges are the result of the support of the Berwick community and thousands of investigative hours by our officers,” said Supt. Darrell Beaton, Criminal Operations Officer for the Nova Scotia RCMP. “Our goal was to gather the evidence that would identify the person or persons believed to be responsible for the death of Harley Lawrence and we have accomplished that.”
At approximately 2:10 a.m. on October 23, 2013, Kings District RCMP and the Berwick Fire Department responded to a structure fire on Commercial Street. Upon arrival at scene, RCMP found a man deceased in a bus shelter. The man was later identified as Lawrence.
Both of the accused have been remanded into custody and are scheduled to appear at the Kentville Justice Centre on April 28 at 9:30 a.m. Visit KingsCountyNews.ca for updates from the court appearances.