The man accused of killing Kristy Morrey in Port Alberni more than 11 years ago is now a free man after the BC Prosecution Service stayed his first-degree murder charge.
In 2015, Larry Darling, 54, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Morrey. The charge was laid nine years after the death of the 28-year-old woman.
The body of Morrey was found in her home under a blanket on Aug. 20, 2006. At the time, police said she died of natural causes, but later announced she was a homicide victim. The cause of death has never been revealed. Darling, Morrey’s ex-boy friend at the time, was investigated but cleared as a suspect.
Darling was later arrested on Sept. 11, 2015 in Surrey. He was released on $50,000 bail and put under house arrest last year.
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, said the charge approval standard in the murder case could no longer be met. A stay of proceedings of the charges against Darling were directed on June 13, 2018.
“The BC Prosecution Service decided to stay the charges in this case after further information was received by the prosecutors with conduct of the file. After reviewing this information and the rest of the file materials the prosecutors concluded the charge approval standard could no longer be met. In these circumstances, a stay of proceedings is the appropriate course of action. This conclusion was affirmed by senior Crown counsel in the prosecution service and was subsequently conveyed to the investigators and representatives of the family of the victim,” McLaughlin said in a statement.
Charges are only approved or continued when Crown counsel is satisfied that evidence gathered by the investigative agency provides a substantial likelihood of conviction and if so, a prosecution is required in the public interest. A substantial likelihood of conviction exists when Crown counsel is satisfied there is a solid case to present at court.
“In making a charge assessment, Crown counsel must review the evidence gathered by investigators in light of the legal elements of any offence that may have been committed. Crown Ccunsel must also remain aware of the presumption of innocence, the prosecution’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the fact that under Canadian criminal law, a reasonable doubt can arise from the evidence, the absence of evidence, inconsistencies in the evidence or the credibility or reliability of one or more of the witnesses. The person accused of a crime does not have to prove that he or she did not commit the crime. Rather, the Crown bears the burden of proof from beginning to end. When assessing the strength of the case the Crown must also consider the likelihood that viable defences will succeed,” McLaughlin said.
“If, at any point, the prosecutor concludes that the evidentiary standard is no longer met or that a prosecution is no longer required in the public interest a prosecution cannot proceed. In this case the prosecutor concluded the evidentiary test was no longer met and directed the stay of proceedings. ”