Man pleads guilty to murder, forced man over bridge into Fraser River

Jayson James Anthony Gilbert had initially been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Branton Regner but pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

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A Williams Lake man pleaded guilty Friday to the murder of a man that involved kidnapping the victim and then forcing him over a bridge into the Fraser River.

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Jayson James Anthony Gilbert had initially been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Branton Regner but pleaded guilty to the lesser and included offense of second-degree murder during a brief appearance in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver.

He also pleaded guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

Court heard that Gilbert was responsible for forcing the victim and a person who cannot be identified due to a publication ban into the back of a vehicle and then driving them to the Rudy Johnson Bridge.

He then forced Regner and the other person over the bridge into the river below. Regner died of blunt force injuries. The other person survived. The crimes took place on the night of Aug. 8, 2019 into the early morning hours of Aug. 9 around Williams Lake.

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Justice Carol Ross conducted an inquiry to ensure that Gilbert had made his plea voluntarily and without any coercion. Gilbert confirmed that he was under no pressure to make his plea.

The accused, wearing red prison clothing and a mask, sat quietly in the prisoner’s dock during the proceedings.

The Crown and defense are expected to make a joint submission on sentencing for Gilbert and to prepare an agreed statement of facts. The case was put over until June 30 to fix a date for sentencing.

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility of between 10 and 25 years.

A report that looks into Gilbert’s Indigenous background is expected to be prepared for the sentencing.

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The plea came following a number of pretrial motions by the defense and just before Gilbert was to stand trial with his co-accused, Michael Drynock.

Drynock’s trial is expected to get underground Monday before Justice Ross in Vancouver. It was originally set for 12 weeks but may be shortened due to the guilty plea.

The Crown earlier stayed charges that were laid against Jordell Sellars, a third accused in the case.

In July 2019, Drynock’s brother, Johnny, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of well-known Metro Vancouver gangster Birinderjeet Justin Banghu on March 13, 2017.

The elder Drynock approached Banghu in the busy parking lot of a Surrey hotel. He shot the victim through the window of the Banghu vehicle several times.

The judge, calling it a “shocking and disturbing” slaying, handed Drynock a 14-year jail term minus credit for time served for a net sentence of 10 years and nine months.

with files from Kim Bolan

[email protected]

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