By Brendan Miller
Southern Alberta Newspapers
It was an emotional opening day in the second-degree murder trial of Deborah Belyea, 70, who is accused of killing her husband Alfred, as the court heard testimonies from two of the couple’s three daughters.
Deborah was charged in October 2021 after RCMP officers found human remains at a rural location near Piapot, Sask., six days after they issued a missing person report for Alfred.
Redcliff RCMP announced that Alfred, a Cypress County councillor, was the subject of a missing persons file over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
On Oct. 16 a large police presence was reported at outbuildings of a farm near Piapot and charges were laid.
Deborah appeared in Medicine Hat’s Court of King’s Bench on Jan. 9 with an oxygen tank. She has been out of custody since early 2022 in order to live at the Wellington, a local assisted living facility.
In the Crown’s opening statement prosecutor Jace Cowan told the court, “In October 2021 Deborah Belyea killed her husband Alfred Belyea in their residence in Suffield, removed the arms from the body and sometime before Monday evening she had transported the body to a rural location near Piapot, Sask., and left his partially dismembered body there.”
During the first day of the trial Cowan called three witnesses to the stand, including Jodi Wilson and Trina Belyea, both daughters of Deborah and Alfred.
Wilson, 41, took the witness stand and became emotional when she was asked about her last contact with her father.
Wilson told the court she spoke with him during a weekly family Zoom call on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving weekend, and said Alfred sent her a text on the Friday.
Examination from Cowan revealed Wilson became concerned about her father after speaking with her mother over the phone six days later on Thanksgiving Monday.
Wilson, holding back tears, says she had a weird feeling after her mother told her that her father was “outside” and unavailable to talk over the phone.
“I was really worried about my dad because every time I called, I talked to my dad,” Wilson emotionally told the court through tears.
Deborah could be seen wiping tears from her face and looking at her feet as her daughter testified.
During a cross examination by defence counsel Katherine Beylak, court learned of tensions between Wilson and Deborah.
Wilson says she previously had accused her mother of having an affair and held animosity against Deborah.
Trina Belyea, 48, the couple’s eldest daughter, took to the witness stand after Wilson.
Trina told the court she also spoke with her mother on Thanksgiving Monday and asked to speak with her father.
During this phone call, she testified, it was revealed Deborah had not seen Alfred during the weekend.
She said that during the call Deborah told Trina that Alfred was picked up by a county landowner on Saturday morning so they could look at purchasing gravel.
Deborah went on to tell Trina she assumed he came home Saturday evening while she was asleep and left again Sunday morning before she woke and would deal with it in the morning.
Trina told the court she told her mother to call 911 and file a missing person complaint.
Trina flew to Calgary two days later and drove to Suffield to file a police report and search for her father.
She told the court she went to Blood Indian Park, as this was the last location Deborah claimed she saw Alfred.
Court learned Deborah and Alfred had a conversation about taking a break from their relationship during their visit to Blood Indian Park on the Friday of Thanksgiving Long weekend.
During her stay at her parents’ Suffield home, Trina told the court she discovered a letter her mother had written to her three daughters.
Trina read the letter to court.
“Everyone is going to hate me, I love Alf with all my heart,” part of the letter read. “Please try and find it in your heart to forgive me, I love you all so much.”
Examination relieved that Trina witnessed bruising on her mother’s left arms or legs while she was helping Deborah get dressed the following Friday as police seized her home, and the two were taken to the police station for examination.
During cross examination, defence counsel asked Trina about her mother’s ongoing health issues. It was revealed that Deborah suffered a stroke in 2001 and has trouble breathing on her own.
Trina and Jodi both said their mother’s health issues affect her mobility and can make it difficult to go shopping, climb stairs, cook or clean. The court heard Alfred was Deborah’s primary caregiver and would do most of the shopping and cleaning around the house.
The court learned Alfred suffered from high blood pressure and took daily medication for his prostate. Alfred used a catheter that Trina said he would take out during the evening.
Redcliff RCMP Const. Adam George was also called to the witness stand. George told the court he took a 53-minute recorded statement from Deborah after she called police to file a missing person complaint for Alfred four days after she saw him last.
Court heard that in her statement Deborah claimed the last time she saw Alfred was during their trip to Blood Indian Park on Friday evening, and that a Dan or Don was coming to pick Alfred up early Saturday to look at gravel prospects in relation to his councillor role.
Deborah was given an arraignment of her formal charges as the trial opened Jan. 9.
Prosecutors presented Justice Miller with evidence that included a USB stick and photo book from the autopsy.
The trial resumed Jan. 10 in courtroom No. 4.