A friend asked for directions, then two strangers shot them dead on Spadina Ave., Crown says at murder trial opening

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A Toronto jury has begun hearing evidence in a case of two men accused of spraying Spadina Ave. with gunfire after a stranger asked for directions to an after-hours party in Kensington Market.

Jahmal Richardson and Kyle Sparks MacKinnon are accused of killing two men, almost taking the life of another, and wounding two others. They have pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, attempted murder with a firearm and two aggravated assaults.

Shooting victims David Eminess, seen left in a police handout photo, and Quinn Taylor, seen in an Instagram photo, were shot dead in Chinatown early on Jan. 31, 2016.
Shooting victims David Eminess, seen left in a police handout photo, and Quinn Taylor, seen in an Instagram photo, were shot dead in Chinatown early on Jan. 31, 2016.  (Star file photos)

In the downtown courthouse not far from the carnage, prosecutors Kerry Hughes and Susan Adams opened their case Wednesday telling a Superior Court jury what evidence they are expected to hear, and also what they won’t.

While several witnesses who watched and heard events unfold early Jan. 31, 2016 will testify, none will be able to point to the accused and identify either as the person they recognize as one of the shooters, Hughes told jurors during her opening remarks.

The Crown’s case will be based on different pieces of circumstantial evidence that, taken together, will be “just as convincing as direct evidence,” and will include video footage from storefronts, a dying victim’s ID, photos of a gun found at the scene and the testimony of a survivor who was shot in the head, Hughes said.

She outlined the Crown’s theory:

Stewart Douglas and his friends Quinn Taylor and David Eminess were searching for an after-hours party in Kensington Market when, she said, Douglas asked for directions from a group of men standing outside the New Ho King restaurant on the west side of Spadina, several blocks south of College St.

“Douglas asked once, then stepped away to light a cigarette. He then went back and approached a man wearing a sleeveless black vest with fur around the armholes,” Hughes said. “When he asked that man where the after-hours party was, instead of an answer to his question he was shot in the head.”

Douglas, shot at close range, will testify that although they were complete strangers, he can describe the man who shot him, the Crown attorney said.

At least one other man, the Crown alleges it was Sparks MacKinnon, drew a gun and opened fire on the street, sending people running for cover. At least 16 shots were fired from at least two guns, Hughes said.

Eminess died after being shot in the back of the head by a single bullet.

Multiple bullets hit Taylor, who asked bystanders to “please call 911, they’re shooting at people,” before collapsing in a restaurant doorway. As he lay mortally wounded, Hughes said, Taylor told a police officer the man who shot him was mixed-race and wearing a red sweater and thick gold chain. Two other men in the area were also hit by gunfire, one shot in the calf, the other in the elbow, she said.

Prior to the shooting, Richardson was captured on surveillance video walking up Spadina with five other men wearing non-descript clothing, Hughes said. Sparks MacKinnon joined them a few minutes later, she said.

The two defendants were wearing distinctive clothing that evening, Hughes said. Richardson wore a black fur vest and large, fur-trimmed hood, tattoos could be seen running down the length of both arms, she said, adding he had around his neck a thick chain with a large circle with a letter B and wings on either side.

Sparks MacKinnon was dressed in a long-sleeved sweater, described by witnesses as red, red with a pattern on it, or purple, she said, adding he also wore a gold necklace with a large round medallion.

One witness is expected to testify that while he saw people fleeing the area, he took note of five men walking northbound.

“One man was being patted on the back by another as they walked. People in the group were smiling, and the man being patted on the back was walking kind of proudly,” Hughes said, summarizing the witness’s observations.

He will describe that man as someone wearing a coat with a hood trimmed with gold-coloured fur, she said.

The trial resumes Thursday.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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In her short life, little Abby inspired countless acts of kindness. Now even strangers are mourning her death

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Abby was here, and the signs are everywhere. Pink ribbons are tied around the fence posts south of Schomberg, and in town, they’re on stop signs and telephone poles. At a coffee shop, there is a board where red hearts proclaim in permanent marker scrawl who has a free coffee or muffin coming to them. Just one of the many acts of kindness made in the name of the little girl who became a “binding force,” not just in this town north of Toronto, but everywhere she went. Abby Eveson died last week. She was here for five years and four months.

Abby Eveson was born with a rare congenital heart defect that limited the blood flow to her lungs. She had three open-heart surgeries before she was 2. When she was facing a surgery in 2014, her parents, Becky and Craig, began dropping $5 bills at the hospital, buying lunches for strangers, encouraging others to do the same. “It really helped us get through the hard times, just knowing that you’re helping make someone else smile when they’re having a difficult time,” Becky Eveson said earlier this week. “It just helped.”

Charlie Eveson, 7, in front of a picture of his sister Abby at the Schomberg arena, where his words were read out.
Charlie Eveson, 7, in front of a picture of his sister Abby at the Schomberg arena, where his words were read out.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

It was an exchange with the universe, and it became a movement: We Believe in Abby.

Read more:

Paying it forward for Abby: One family’s quest to create positive energy for their very sick daughter

“I know they truly believed that Abby survived for as long as she did because of that positive energy,” said Kate Glassow, a family friend.

On Thursday, the town arena was the only place big enough to hold the hundreds who came to celebrate her life. At centre ice there were flowers, balloons and pictures of Abby, including a recent school photo where she is leaning on some books in an academic pose. Her mom posted a behind-the-scenes version on Facebook about a month ago. Out of the frame, she is kneeling behind Abby to hold her up — “Picture day at school today! Gotta do what you gotta do xo.”

More than 500 people came to the service. Children sat cross-legged on the walking track. Many of them had done good deeds in Abby’s name, some had been on the receiving end, and others had been inspired by Abby. If Abby can do it, so can I. “It carried on forever,” Glassow said.

The Evesons knew that Abby’s life would never be free of medical appointments, but things had recently stabilized. “Out of all the years of being sick sick sick, it didn’t seem like the time,” Becky said. Abby was in school a few hours every day. She loved going on adventures, playing with her brothers, making people laugh. (One day at school, her teacher told her she needed to change her “grumpy pants.” When her mom picked her up to take her home for a nap, she insisted her pants be changed.)

In the middle of October, she went to a Wiggles concert with her mom. “I’ve never seen her beam more,” Becky said. A few days later, she learned she was going to be a big sister again. Her dad asked what they should name the baby, and Abby suggested “Coochie,” after her beloved soother.

In her short life, little Abby inspired countless acts of kindness | Story Behind the Story
The Trisan Centre hosted the memorial, which included an honour guard from King Emergency Services.
The Trisan Centre hosted the memorial, which included an honour guard from King Emergency Services.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Abby woke up early, as usual, on Oct. 24. She played in the bath and had a nap. She was sassy when her mom was too slow to return her iPad. And then she went into distress.

Eveson posted a message on the We Believe in Abby Facebook page. She knew it was bad, and asked for prayers and positive thoughts. “That’s always helped us in the past,” she said.

A few hours later, Abby died at the Southlake Regional Health Centre. Not long after, people in town began tying pink ribbons everywhere. Nearby towns did the same.

A jogger running downtown saw the ribbons. She had a sinking feeling.

“She started bawling,” said Glassow. “She was devastated, and again, she doesn’t know the family. Everyone just knows Abby’s story.”

During the service, Rev. Sheilagh Ashworth spoke for the family, including a tribute from 7-year-old Charlie.

Becky Eveson is consoled by her son Charlie, 7, during the service.
Becky Eveson is consoled by her son Charlie, 7, during the service.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

“She had lots of friends, including me because I am her brother,” Ashworth read, as Charlie stood at centre ice in his green sweater, shuffling behind one of the photos. “I miss her so much, and I am sure all of you do too. I will miss her cute little face and I am sure you will too. I will miss seeing her walk in her orange walker, because she would walk very fast. I will miss her cute feet, because they were really cute. I will miss her.”

King Township Mayor Steve Pellegrini also spoke, calling it the “most difficult” speech of his career.

“If you didn’t know Abby you might ask: how could someone so small make such a profound impact on our community?” he said. “It’s because of the size of Abby’s heart.”

The service closed with a Wiggles recording of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It was the only song that soothed Abby when she was upset, her mom said. “Twinkle, Mom,” she’d say, and Becky would sing.

There were many “heart moms” in the stands who had met on the fourth floor of Toronto’s Sick Kids hospital. It can be difficult for friends and family to understand, so they all keep in touch on a Facebook group, offering support.

The stands of Trisan Centre were full as Abby’s service began on Thursday.
The stands of Trisan Centre were full as Abby’s service began on Thursday.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

In 2015, Carol Syme’s daughter Evynn had a heart transplant. It had not gone well, and after Syme posted in the group, she received a gift: a doll for her daughter, who was about to turn 4, and a Starbucks card. It came anonymously in “our last days in hospital.”

The coffee shop in the hospital is open day and night. It is one of the few places parents can go for a break, while still being close to their children. It was a special, thoughtful gift.

“It’s such a simple, tiny little thing,” Syme said. “Because it does get expensive, it does get dreary, or lonely, and it’s just someone random thinking about you, right?”

Even though everybody knew who the gift giver was, Becky “outed herself” after Abby’s death, hoping that someone will continue the tradition, said Melanie McBride, another heart mom at the service. McBride had been to the arena before. Eveson had arranged Christmas parties there for “heart kids” here so they could visit Santa in a controlled environment, and not worry about the germs at the mall.

After the floral arrangements were taken off the ice, there was skating, and a make-your-own-slime room with glitter and confetti. Slime was one of Abby’s favourite things. There was a room with singing and dancing, and an ice cream machine. On the ice, some of the younger children took tentative steps with a parent, their ankles bowed, smiling in disbelief.

This is what the Evesons wanted. A day for families to be together. They want to build an accessible playground in Abby’s memory someday. They believed in Abby, and they still do.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Becky said. “People aren’t just sending condolences. It’s messages of how she touched them, you know? And she’s 5. It’s amazing.”

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Edmonton couple covered in tumours want strangers to see past the bumps

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Gail Appelgren has been denied access to public swimming pools and detained at the airport.

In grocery stores, she has been told not to touch the fruit.

Thousands of tumours cover her body. Strangers can be cruel.

« I’ve had people circle me at Costco, and pray over me in the middle of shopping, » Appelgren said in an interview Friday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. « I’ve had people call me ‘wart face.' »

« A lady, while I was waiting for coffee the other day, said, ‘When you die and see God, you won’t have those bumps and you’ll be beautiful.’

« And I said, ‘Well, I think I’m beautiful now’ and she shook her and said, ‘No, no you’re not.' »

Gail Appelgren undergoes multiple procedures a year to manage her most painful tumours. (Gail Appelgren)

Appelgren and her husband Tim Golumbia both have neurofibromatosis (NF), a rare genetic disorder which attacks the nervous system and causes tiny tumours to develop all over the body.

Only one in 3,000 people will inherit the progressive condition.

The Edmonton couple are sharing their stories with the hope of reducing the stigma around their condition.

« We are not contagious, » said Appelgren, a retired social worker. « Please do not be afraid of us, even though we look like we have something scary.

« I have appreciation for people’s reactions, that they come from a place of fear, and that’s part of the reason we want to get out there and share this. » 

‘You’re not alone’ 

Many people with NF avoid leaving their homes out of fear of being ridiculed by strangers, Appelgren said.

She wishes people would ask about her condition instead of recoiling.

« It creates a lot of anxiety and depression in people because of the reaction and the fear of being stared at or being called names.

« I want to let people who have NF, you’re not alone. »  

Gail Appelgren as a young girl. She began showing symptoms as an infant but wouldn’t receive a diagnosis until she was 14. (Gail Appelgren)

Appelgren, 57, began showing symptoms as an infant. At 14, as a large tumour on her chest grew to an alarming size and the bumps on her skin began to multiply, her condition was finally diagnosed by her family doctor.

« When I was born, I had a tumour or a mass on the left side of my chest and it grew as I grew, » Appelgren said.

« The doctors at the time didn’t know what I had, they just kept saying, it’s a birthmark, it’s a birthmark. »

Despite numerous surgeries to remove the mass, it kept growing back. Appelgren said each operation was risky and she nearly died from blood loss during one procedure.

She now has hundreds of thousands of tumours. They cover every inch of her skin.

Tumours caused by neurofibromatosis are usually benign but related medical complications can be painful and life-threatening.

There is no cure and medical treatment is minimal. 

Appelgren continues to have multiple procedures each year to manage her pain. The mass on her chest eventually became so large, she had to have some of her ribs removed.

« I’ve probably had about 40 surgeries over the years to have the tumours removed, » she said. 

Gail Appelgren at 14, when she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. (Gail Appelgren)

Appelgren and Golumbia got together thanks to a little luck and a matchmaking colleague.

In 2010, Golumbia, a social worker with the Alberta government, was working in Nanaimo, B.C., when he made a call to the children’s services office in Edmonton about a case.

When he mentioned that he used his bumps as an icebreaker during his work with young children, the woman on the other line was intrigued.

The woman had worked with Appelgren for years and was always trying to set her up on dates.

After meeting through a matchmaking colleague, Appelgren and Golumbia were married in 2014. (Gail Appelgren)

Soon, the would-be matchmaker was barging into Appelgren’s office, with her thumbs up.

« She came running, » Appelgren recalled. « She had Tim’s name written down on a piece of paper with the word neurofibromatosis.

« She said, ‘I know I tried to fix you up one other time and it didn’t work out, but I have a good feeling.

‘He’s about your age, he cheers for those Roughriders like you do, he’s from Saskatchewan, I think this is going to work out.' »

Appelgren and Golumbia spoke over the phone the following day.  A month later, Golumbia sent her flowers and they arranged to meet.

« We talked every night, for an hour every night, and we found out that we had so much in common, » Appelgren said.

« We worked at some of the same places at different times, went to the same school in Saskatoon, drove the same vehicles, had Coca-Cola collections. » 

They were married in August 2014. Golumbia proposed by serenading her with Annie’s Song, an ode to their shared love for songwriter John Denver. 

The people who know me don’t see the bumps anymore.– Gail Appelgren

Golumbia, 55, said his wife has never let her condition affect her confidence. She doesn’t cover up and refuses to hide away.

It’s one of the things about her he loves best.

« She lies on the beach with a bathing suit on and doesn’t care what people say, look or do, » Golumbia said.  

« That’s just who she is. »

Appelgren credits her husband and friends for allowing her to see past her bumps.

She hopes, with a little understanding, others will be able to do the same.

« The people who know me don’t see the bumps anymore, » she said. « They just see Gail, which is what I see. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see them. »  

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