Harris sentenced to life in prison for Mandseth murder

Jeffery David Harris has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for at least the next 10 years after being found guilty earlier this year of the second-degree murder of Gary Mandseth.

Harris, 38, was sentenced in Kamloops Supreme Court last Tuesday, Sept. 19.

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It took a jury just four hours of deliberations to find him guilty following his trial in April.

Mandseth was stabbed and beaten to death outside his Mitchell Road home on Feb. 10, 2015. 

Court was told he died a violent death after he was stabbed multiple times and his skull was fractured by a club.

B.C. ambulance paramedic Mike Whitcher became emotional on the witness stand as he described the grisly scene when he and his partner Shae Byrne found the injured man outside the Mitchell Road residence.

“There was so much blood, things just weren’t sticking,” Whitcher testified during the trial. “We were trying to cover up the holes, but there were so many holes.”

“This murder has had an impact on the community,” Crown prosecutor Chris Balison told the court last week. “It was seen during trial, not only the struggle of the witnesses coming forward, but also their struggle while giving evidence.”

In testimony during the trial, court was told Mandseth was a drug dealer who sold heroin to Harris on a regular basis and that the two were also partners in the Lillooet drug trade.

Harris said Mandseth sold heroin and supplied Harris with cocaine, which Harris cooked into crack and resold, allowing him to buy more heroin from Mandseth.

Harris told jurors the two men would shoot up together on a daily basis, with Mandseth manning the needle.

He testified he was in a “chaotic” drug-induced blackout state when he killed Gary Mandseth.

According to a report in Kamloops This Week, defence lawyer Donna Turko stressed Mandseth’s work selling drugs placed him in dangerous situations.

“He was a drug dealer,” she said last week. “He’s not an innocent victim, not to detract from the fact that there was a loss of life.”

Turko said that after Harris suffered a back injury about five years ago, he was prescribed opioid painkillers. Over time, he developed an addiction that led to heroin use.

“Doctors prescribe them so readily,” she said. “It’s a classic scenario that started Mr. Harris’ downfall.”

Turko described Harris as “mild-mannered” and “the opposite” of someone one would expect to launch into a violent attack.

In court, Harris expressed his regrets about the killing, apologizing to Mandseth’s family, his own relatives, and the community of Lillooet.

“In the time since, I’ve had time to be freed from the strong hold of my opioid addiction,” he said.

Harris had no prior criminal record.

In addition to the life sentence and 10 years of parole ineligibility, Harris was also ordered to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database and was banned from owning firearms for life.

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