David Blacquiere was wearing a “World’s Greatest Dad” T-shirt while he bled to death on the sidewalk beside his Ford Focus in a Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot on Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue.
It was a baffling scene in a case that resulted late Saturday in a verdict of manslaughter for 20-year-old Christopher Gordon. A sentencing hearing will be held Feb. 20. Justice Maureen Forestell thanked the 11-women, one-man jury for their “public service” and “diligence and commitment.”
The trial of Gordon heard that, according to eyewitnesses and security footage, Blacquiere, the 54-year-old father of four, who lived two hours north of Toronto in Angus, Ont., was stabbed during a violent altercation with a tall, skinny, young man after the two tumbled out of Blacquiere’s car just before noon on Nov. 14, 2017.
But as the investigation unfolded, Toronto police homicide Det. Sgt. Rob North came to a troubling realization: the part-time hockey referee had been stabbed to death by his crack dealer.
The jury rejected the charge of second-degree murder, settling on manslaughter, which means the jury believed Gordon didn’t intend to kill Blacquiere. Gordon’s defence team had asked that he be acquitted because he was acting in self defence, which the jury, deliberating since Thursday, rejected.
Meril Gordon, the accused man’s mother, hugged her son’s lawyer, Adele Monaco, after the verdict was read. Monaco said “we are absolutely elated” that the jury did not return a verdict of second-degree murder.
Meril Gordon said outside the courtroom “we did not raise our son to do such a thing. It is sad for everyone. A father has lost his life.” She said the verdict of manslaughter shows “there is a God in Heaven.”
The circumstances of Blacquiere’s death left family and friends in shock. His son Dawson Blacquiere, who played a pivotal role in the case, nodded once when the verdict was read, then left the court with friends, family and the prosecution team to discuss the verdict.
In a TV interview, one friend at first speculated the “hard-working ironworker” must have been in “the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“It was very unusual,” a weary North said last week while waiting for the verdict in the downtown Toronto courthouse. He had been up all night investigating the city’s latest homicide of 2019.
“He (Blacquiere) was just a normal, east coast kind of guy.” Blacquiere was a native of Prince Edward Island.
So how did a hockey-loving father of a teenaged boy and three adult daughters cross paths with the 18-year-old Toronto high school drop out? Gordon left the big city when he was 16 to sell drugs in Kitchener, before moving to Barrie after hearing it was a more lucrative place to sell crack cocaine.
Around that time, in 2016, Blacquiere, who was separated from his wife, was living in Angus with Dawson, a Grade 10 student in nearby Barrie. He testified during the trial that sometime in 2016, his dad had been injured on a job site when a forklift ran over the back of his leg.
That injury, coupled with a degenerative nerve in his back, had decreased his mobility “quite significantly” and kept him from work and playing hockey, Dawson Blacquiere said, answering prosecutor Rob Kenny’s questions. Walking for periods longer than 15 minutes was difficult.
His father “took pain medication,” Dawson Blacquiere continued, and was scheduled for back surgery a week after he was killed.
North, the lead investigator on the case, believes that although Blacquiere didn’t die of an overdose, he is another casualty of the opioid epidemic.
“In my mind, he was still taking the opioid medication but it wasn’t doing enough in terms of pain so he had to have something on top of that as well, which led him, I believe, into meeting Christopher Gordon,” the detective told the Star.
“People get hooked on these drugs, it alleviates their pain or stress or issues in life, and there’s only so long that can happen and then you have to sort of up the ante because (the pain relief) is no longer effective,” he said. “When that happens instead of dealing with doctors, you’re dealing with people who sell it on the streets or back alleyways, which leads you into the world of gangs and drug dealers which obviously leads to problems.”
After his father’s death, Dawson Blaquiere provided North with a lead. His father would sometimes talk about his “friend,” whom he called Mikey. He would drive him back and forth between Toronto and Barrie, and they would “hang out … sometimes,” Dawson Blaquiere testified.
Dawson testified he remembered his father getting a call to bail someone out of jail, which is when he learned Mikey’s name was Chris
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Adele Monaco suggested Blacquiere’s mobility wasn’t as impeded as had been suggested, noting he still refereed hockey games, where he earned extra cash.
“He would sometimes push through it to support the family,” Dawson responded.
After the Crown closed its case, Gordon took the stand in his own defence.
The soft-spoken man testified that when he moved to Barrie in 2016, he was staying at a crack house when one of his regular customers introduced him to “Dave.” Gordon told court they bought drugs together, and Blacquiere asked for his number.
Soon, Blacquiere was not only a regular customer, but a friend and “father figure,” Gordon said. The night before their lethal fight, Gordon said he met Blacquiere who gave him the knife to protect himself.
But he also testified it was the first time he saw another side to the nice, generous, friendly man who demanded drugs and scared him by slamming his steering wheel.
On the morning of Nov. 14, 2017, Gordon said he was a passenger in Blacquiere’s car when the older man lunged at him after being refused more crack cocaine.
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He was struggling to get out of the car, and away from Blacquiere, and yelling for help, he said. Gordon said while Blacquiere had him in a hold, his other hand was grabbing at Gordon’s crotch, where he stashed his drugs.
During her closing address, Monaco showed the jury security camera footage of the altercation in slow motion as the men spilled outside the car. Recorded from a distance, “you will see Mr. Blacquiere, a much more mature and burly man, with a herculean grip on Mr. Gordon, tumbling along with Mr. Gordon onto the guardrail and on top of him,” she told the jurors.
Gordon testified that he “remembered” having a knife in his pocket when he was against the guardrail, and that he took it out to scare Blacquiere.
“I jabbed him a few times, to get him off me,” Gordon testified. “I felt I couldn’t breathe … that I was dying.”
Nothing Gordon said was true, Kenny, who prosecuted the case with Crown attorney Brady Donohue, said during his closing address.
“Christopher Gordon was younger, healthier and, most importantly, armed with a knife,” Kenny said during his closing address.
“David Blacquiere was fighting to avoid being killed.”
Most notably, there was no way Gordon met with Blacquiere the previous evening, because video evidence shows he never left his mother’s house.
“Members of the jury, Christopher Gordon’s testimony is helpful in only one respect,” Kenny said. “It is so unbelievable, so demonstrably false, that it proves, overwhelmingly and beyond doubt, that Mr. Gordon cannot be believed when he says he is acting in self-defence when he stabbed David Blacquiere four times, killing him.”
Monaco told the jury that her client was mistaken about the timing of his visit with Blacquiere.
The prosecutors also disputed Gordon’s characterization of his close relationship with Blacquiere.
“I don’t put any merit into that, it’s a story of convenience,” North said in an interview. “Christopher Gordon is a drug dealer, David Blacquiere, regardless of how much he uses, is a drug user, and it’s a convenient story that Mr. Gordon spins.”
So what does he think happened inside the car?
“I believe, that David Blacquiere is at the end of the rope with Gordon, he’s about to have back surgery to alleviate much of his pain, he sold his house and is planning to move down east, and I think he’s ending the friendship — therefore Gordon has no rides to get around town, or to Barrie, and he’s not happy with it,” North said.
“That would be a big disruption in terms of sales for Christopher Gordon, who sold both in Barrie and in Toronto.”
Overall, it’s a tragic story for “a kid who is 18 years old who could have made some different decisions, and a 50-something man who suffers an injury and gets involved in illegal drugs,” he continued.
“Two families, and two sets of lives are changed forever, unfortunately.”