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Gambling partner murder trial hears from girlfriend of accused Calgary man


The girlfriend of a Calgary man accused of killing his friend and business partner of 30 years testified Tuesday, admitting she lied to police during their investigation.

Chris Lee, 62, is on trial for second-degree murder. On Monday, he admitted to killing Vida Smith and offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, which was denied by prosecutors.

Smith and Lee, who was traveling with Kevin Barton, were blackjack players who had traveled to India and Australia, gambling together, according to Winnie Lo, Lee’s girlfriend.

Lo testified on Tuesday, telling jurors she didn’t know Smith even though the two women’s relationship with Lee overlapped for about 20 years.

Prosecutor Shane Parker told Lo about inconsistencies between her testimony to police in 2020 and her testimony.

On July 21, 2020, Smith and Lee met for coffee at a Starbucks in Calgary. They spent about 30 minutes there before security camera footage showed the couple leaving together.

Chris Lee appeared on closed-door TV scenes, walking through a parking lot the day he met Vida Smith for coffee. Lee has admitted to killing Smith but said he was not guilty of the murder. (Court artifacts)

Those were the last known images of Smith. She was never seen or heard from again.

A week later, Lee was targeted by the Calgary Police Service’s homicide unit.

At the time, Lee was living with Winnie Lo in the northwest community of Varsity.

On July 29, when detectives showed up at Lo’s house, she told them she hadn’t seen Lee in years. In fact, he was in the house at the time.

Lo said she lied “because I don’t know what happened to him, I wanted to ask him.”

‘I was confused’

In another statement to police about a week later, Lo told detectives that Lee picked her up from her daughter’s residence on July 25, 2020 – four days after Smith went missing – in the car. his white load. Lee owns a Cadillac Escalade.

Under Parker’s interrogation, Lo changed her story to say that it was her own Nissan Rogue that Lee was driving at the time.

“I believe I was confused,” Lo said.

Parker thinks Lo’s memory of the events of 2020 will be sharper than it is now.

“I would suggest that the reason you change your answer from Escalade to your vehicle is that you don’t want to answer questions about Escalade,” Parker said.

Lo refused the prosecutor’s submission.

When asked if she and Lee are still “boyfriend-girlfriend”, Lo said “yes”.

But under cross-examination by defense attorney Cory Wilson, Lo said she was “very stressed” when questioned by police.

‘Try to be honest’

Lo agreed to Wilson’s suggestion that Lee had driven her a thousand times since 2001 and that she never recorded or remembered what he was driving.

“Are you trying to be honest in that interview?” Wilson asked.

“Yes,” Lo replied.

Vida Smith, left, and Chris Lee, aka Kevin Barton, have joined the world of gambling. (Calgary Police Department)

On the first day of the trial, jurors heard evidence that over the years Smith and Lee had created suspicions about large payments sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Around the time of her death, Smith was experiencing financial difficulties. The pandemic has forced casinos to close, and her daughter Neda Power believes her mother did not “win big”.

DNA and guns

When they met for coffee, Smith planned to sell Lee her ex-husband’s birth certificate for $10,000.

According to Power.

After they left the cafe on July 21, 2020, Smith and Lee drove off together in a car he had borrowed from Lo, a Nissan Rogue.

Eight days later, police arrested Lee and seized his Escalade.

Inside, they found five loaded guns, $44,000 in cash, a knife and handcuffs with Smith’s DNA.

A drop of her blood was also discovered in the trunk of the SUV along with residue of cleaning products.

Smith’s body was never found.

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