By Courtesy (St. John's)
The Independent
Friday, May 04, 2007

Joe Oliver in Her Majesty Penitentiary

Photo by Paul Daly / The Independent

For someone charged in the execution-style murders of two people, Joe Oliver seems anxious enough to talk � about his arrest, about the police, about the case itself, about his lawyer (or lack thereof).

But there are long, often awkward pauses before he answers those questions, and for good reason.

Oliver knows he has to be careful not to jeopardize his own case before it goes to trial. Most of his replies begin with: �I just can�t go there.�

There are a few things he�d like people to know � people who are bent on judging him guilty until proven innocent, instead of the other way around.

�I�ll tell ya one thing � I ain�t goin� down for a double homicide for anybody. I can tell you that right now,� Oliver, 37, tells The Independent in an exclusive interview at Her Majesty�s Penitentiary in St. John�s. He has been locked up at the Pen since Jan. 12, when he was arrested for the murders of Dale Worthman and Kimberly Lockyer.

According to information filed with the court, the two were shot sometime between Aug. 27 and Sept. 30, 1993. Police have long believed it was a hit in retaliation for an unpaid drug debt.

�Anything else, sure. I�ll do my time for something I did. But I�m not doing time for something I didn�t do. And I didn�t kill anybody. That�s about all I can say about that right now. I just can�t go there. Only time will tell, and the time is going pretty slow right now, I�ll tell you that.�

The police, Oliver says, are as guilty as anyone for jumping to conclusions.

�They�re acting like they can do whatever they want, especially when you get a cop who just wants to close the case and they don�t even know what they�re talking about. I think they were pressured into arresting me. But I think they jumped the gun and just figured the chips would just fall in place for them, but it didn�t work that way. And now I�m being railroaded.�

Oliver will admit that investigators were not completely out to lunch in questioning him.

�I can�t say they were totally off base, no � because maybe I did have some information. But certainly nothing that would make them charge me with second-degree murder. Not that I would think anyway. Do I have any idea who is involved? Sure, I have ideas. But did I have anything to do with it? I just can�t go there with any comment at all.�

Oliver has been questioned twice by police since the bodies of Worthman and Lockyer were unearthed last July in woods between Thorburn Road and Windsor Lake on the edge of the capital city.

He credits lawyer Bob Buckingham � who has been assisting him pro bono since his arrest Jan. 12 � with keeping police at bay.

�To tell ya the truth, I�d say they thinks I know a lot more than I�m saying. Do I think they�re just using me for information, to get someone else? Sure I do. But I can�t go there right now.�

Oliver says he was surprised, but not entirely shocked, when he was approached and arrested at an airport in mid-January. He won�t say which airport, other than it wasn�t in Newfoundland.

He acknowledges being questioned by police before leaving town, so he knew he was a so-called �person of interest.

�I just didn�t think (the arrest) would happen like that. But then, I didn�t have any idea how it would happen, either. I just wasn�t expecting it, put it that way,� says the diminutive but stocky Oliver, in a confident yet soft-spoken voice.

�They never said much to me at the time, but I kinda got a feeling � because of everything that was going on � what it was all about. There wasn�t much to see there (at the airport) because I never opened my mouth or nothin�. I just came back with them (to St. John�s), was locked up that night, and the next day it was lights, camera, action (in court).�

Asked why he left town, Oliver said it was to shield himself and his family from the rumours and media circus in the days and weeks following the shocking discovery of the bodies, almost 13 years after the couple disappeared.

�Well, I think leaving was one of the better things to do at the time. I didn�t want my kids down around there either. So I just figured it would be better for everyone.�

Nor has the ordeal been good for Oliver, a mechanic by trade, who has been on workers� compensation for almost 10 years and suffers from chronic nervousness and anxiety. He hasn�t been able to see his family doctor while in jail.

�I was on medication before I came in here, but now I�m not. And I needs to get stable again. I mean, I�ve always had bad nerves, and none of this is helping, I can guarantee you that.�

Then there�s his legal conundrum. Oliver had a lawyer before his arrest, but there was a conflict with other lawyers in the firm. Buckingham came to the rescue on short notice to get Oliver through his first court appearance and to ensure full disclosure of evidence from the Crown. Prosecutor Elaine Reid says she should have all the evidence from police within two weeks.

Oliver acknowledges he can�t afford Buckingham, who was forced to withdraw as solicitor of record this week. The preliminary inquiry was set for May 22, but that will likely be postponed now until the fall.

Oliver was offered a particular legal-aid lawyer from Gander, but he is worried about that lawyer�s lack of experience in criminal law cases (none involving murder trials), and that the lawyer would not be readily accessible (Gander is a three-hour drive from St. John�s).

�(The Crown and police) are doing everything, putting all their best resources to work against me. Why can�t I be as prepared with the best people available? We all know how big this case is for them, and for me.

�And my life is on the line here. I can�t afford to have this shagged up. I can�t take that chance.�

Oliver has an application before Supreme Court for the province to pay Buckingham�s private lawyer fees, but, in another catch-22, that application has yet to be heard because Oliver needs a lawyer to make the case for him.

He has yet to seek bail for the same reason.

Meantime, Oliver waits for the police to make another arrest.

The RNC said in January they have �at least one other suspect,� but they�ve refused further comment on the case since then.

Regardless, Oliver says he will plead not guilty. And he reminds people not to judge until they have all the facts.

That�s especially true, he says, when it comes to recorded phone conversations given to the media by Shannon Murrin, who grew up near Oliver on Thorburn Road � close to the crime scene � and has also been questioned by police in the double-murder.

While on the surface Oliver�s words seemed self-incriminating, he cautions there�s more to his story.

�Nobody knows the situation, or where I was at the time. And nobody should jump to conclusions. Sometimes looks are deceiving, ya know? But it�s like you�re guilty until proven innocent. And this case is still wide open.

�To tell ya the truth, I think I was pretty drunk at the time. I�m a different person when I�m drinking. Always have been. Anybody can tell ya that. A couple of beer and I may be fine. But if I gets into it, a few beers, or start drinkin� the rum ... unfortunately, that�s just the way it is.

�But I�m really no different than anyone else that way. I�d say a good 80 per cent of people I know changes when they�re drinking. Me? I�m one of those people who�s constantly on the phone when I drink.�

It was Murrin, meanwhile, who accused Oliver of trying to finger him for the murders. Oliver believes that was just Murrin playing with the police.

�Well, Shannon�s been around the law an awful long time. He knows the law like the back of his hand, and he will play with them. He likes that. He don�t care. And he never did.�

As for the phone calls, Oliver admits it�s his voice on the other end, but �sometimes Shannon needs his cage rattled. So I might say things to try to rattle him ... and see if he�ll bite.�

Asked if he believes Murrin has information that would help police, Oliver says yes.

�But he�s a character. A person of interest. I know the cops are after approaching him a couple of times. But he�s pretty keen with the law. So I can�t say whether he might be arrested or not.

�I mean, when they picked me up it really was a shock. And I don�t think it�s still sunk in � not 100 per cent.

�There�s times I still wake up in my cell and think I�m home. Many times.�