Alleged horse killers on trial in Calgary

Tipster’s presence in court adds to intrigue

KEVIN LIBIN | NATIONAL POST · APRIL 5, 2011
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You could see a blood trail. [The horse] was upside down with his head wedged between two trees.

LEAH HENNEL / POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES


LEAH HENNEL / POSTMEDIA NEWS FILESChuck Kollin had come to courtroom 1405 in Calgary on Monday morning just looking, he says, to finish what he’d started. He had planted himself quietly, anonymously — he thought — among the spectators for a trial of three men accused of being heartless killers whose alleged crime had shocked the province. Mr. Kollin figured he’d just be a fly on the wall. Mr. Kollin was wrong.

He was spotted from the start. The RCMP officer investigating the case saw him. The defence lawyer wanted to talk to him. The trial was stopped before it began. This changed everything, the attorneys told Judge Cheryl Daniel.This was the man who had first tipped police to the information that had led to the arrest of these three men, along with a 13 year-old boy.

Mr. Kollin says he was told, through hearsay that hasn’t been proven in court, that the boy cried after the killings, and was told to shrug it off. This was, the boy was reportedly told, no different than killing gophers.

But this was different. These were Alberta’s iconic wild horses.

A lot of Albertans are proud of their wild horse herds; romantic about them, even if no one’s certain where they came from. The Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS) suspects they’re the descendants of mustangs sailed to the new world by Spanish conquistadors and brought north by Blackfoot Indians. The government’s position is that they likely just escaped from ranches and farms over generations. Either way, when they started turning up shot, left to die brutal, agonizing deaths near the side of the highway, a lot of Albertans were as outraged as they were heartbroken.

It didn’t matter that, legally, the province considers wild horses no more valuable than cattle. They can be captured, legally, with permission, and sold to slaughter. Alberta grants about 20 such permits a year, one reason why WHOAS estimates that the number of feral horses has fallen from 1,000 in the mid1980s to an estimated 200 or 300 today.

The other is that someone has been shooting them, illegally. About 30 were picked off between 2001 and 2009. They likely weren’t all connected, says Bob Henderson, president of WHOAS.

The horses aren’t universally popular: The odd shooting may be some farmer or rancher cranky over them eating up grazing land meant for cattle.

“I still get emails from individuals saying the horses should be shot like Norway rats,” Mr. Henderson says. “We still run into that attitude.”

But as a retired police officer, he thinks the 13 killed near Sundre, Alta., between 2007 and 2009 are linked.

In 2009, Crime Stoppers reenacted the shootings hoping to generate leads. The wild horses society also put out a reward, which, with the help of private donors, grew to nearly $29,000.

Last January, RCMP announced a break in the case, charging three men, along with the boy. One of the accused was Jason Nixon.

This ramped up the story’s local shock value. Jason is the son of Pat Nixon, the founder of Calgary’s Mustard Seed ministry, one of the city’s most celebrated homeless outreach programs.

The Mustard Seed runs the Mountain-Aire lodge near Sundre, a retreat for people battling addictions, where recovery involves pitching in at the local businesses run by the lodge, including a restaurant and campground, and providing security and firewood to some of the other neighbouring resorts and ranches, set in the picturesque shadow of the Rockies.

Jason Nixon was the lodge’s general manager. He’s also been charged with assault, uttering threats and obstruction of a peace officer. One of the other men accused is his employee.

His father, Pat Nixon, meanwhile, is a member of the Order of Canada who, when he announced his retirement in January, earned an editorial in the Calgary Herald calling him “a living saint.”

And yet the horse deaths, including the one his son is charged with, along with Earl Anderson, Gary Cape and the boy, were gruesome.

Some of the mares were pregnant. One mustang, paralyzed by a bullet through the neck, took so long to die it left a silhouette of its body heat melted in the snow.

Horse Carcass - Alberta (sm)Another had been “gut shot,” reported the local outfitter who found a trio of carcasses in April 2009. “You could see a blood trail and he had flopped around,” he said. “He was upside down with his head wedged between two trees.”

One shooter dragged the body of a foal and laid it next to the body of its mother.

A group of ladies sporting shirts demanding better laws protecting Alberta’s wild horses showed up at court Monday to watch these men tried for killing a single pregnant mare in 2009 — a crime carrying a maximum sentence of five years.

Mr. Henderson was there too, as were a few dapper rancher types, in blue jeans, bolo ties and blazers, doffing cowboy hats as they entered the courtroom.

None of them would be here, Chuck Kollin believes, if not for him.

He’d worked at the Mountain-Aire Lodge in 2008, from the B.C. coast, hired to do some construction and maintenance work.

He left after less than two weeks, disappointed that the place wasn’t the spiritual haven he’d expected. His first day, he alleges, one of the residents offered to sell him crack. “I didn’t want any part of it.”

But the following year, visiting Calgary, using the casual labour office at a local dropin shelter, he ran into Dave Goertz, whom he recognized from the Mountain-Aire.

Mr. Goertz told him he’d been there one day in 2009 when some guys had gone out shooting horses. He had seen them do it, he told Mr. Kollin. He told him about the crying boy. Mr. Kollin checked the Internet.

He read, for the first time, about the shooting investigation. He learned of the reward. He urged Mr. Goertz to go to the police. Then he called them up himself.

Mr. Kollin says part of his motivation was money: He planned, he says, to use the reward for a mission to Albania, to help deliver clothes and crop seeds there. But he also wanted justice done.

He spent “weeks,” he says, helping RCMP track down Mr. Goertz, who had no fixed address. He spent plenty of his own funds in the process. “It became my full-time job,” he says.

He thinks he deserves the reward, but hasn’t seen a dime yet. Mr. Henderson insists that it’s payable only upon a conviction.

When Mr. Kollin showed up on Monday, he suddenly found himself the centre of attention at a trial full enough already with interesting characters and twists.

Defence lawyers halted the proceedings and asked to add him as a witness. Mr. Kollin is stunned. He’s still waiting for a reward he believes he deserves.

He didn’t plan to be part of this trial. He’s not eager to testify — his doctors told him to avoid stress while he awaits heart surgery next month — and definitely not for the accused.

“Why would I want to support the defence?” he says. He had thought he had bused in from the coast to quietly witness the end of “something I started” — to see the mystery of the wild horse shootings unravelled; to see justice served; to finally collect his reward. Now, he’s not sure what will happen. Now, he says, he wishes he’d stayed home.


reprinted from NewpaperDirect | www.newspaperdirect.com


Comments (20)
  • tim Apr 5 2011 - 2:25 pm Reply

    This article is slander and has no evidence backing it. this article combines multiple stories in to one and needs to be taken down and the evidence actually looked at. your to busy screaming about animal rights ,which do not get me wrong is a good thing, to actually ask did these guys do it. get off you high horse and realize an injustice has been done to these accused deserve a right to a trial and justice for what has happened to them. you have lost your ways scream for justice when you have no prof they have done anything wrong. premeditated murder really time to get your head out of the sand and wait for the facts to come to light instead of scream to hang some one who has not been proven guilty of anything. and all charges of to this point he has been acquitted from. Animal rights is a good thing to fight for but this article has no substance and the reporter needed to actually research whats actually happen this reporter is a joke. good luck with your fight on animals rights but be ready that these guys are not guilty and slander like this article needs to end.

    • daisy Apr 5 2011 - 3:19 pm Reply

      I believe the purpose of the trial is that both sides present their case and a judge decides. As has often been said, “There are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in between.” You did not present anything to disprove the reporter’s story so we cannot agree or disagree with it. But we will say that we support stiff penalties for animal cruelty such as these horses endured.

      • Tim Apr 5 2011 - 7:51 pm Reply

        Your right i have not disproved nothing. and obviously we are not going to get the evidence until the crown drops the case. however to post this slander which not only slanders the accused with information not only linked to the case but his family you have a problem and no one can respect such an organisation that shows such little discernment. as for supporting stiff penalties go for it but before spotting off about pre meditated murder maybe you should make sure the people accused are guilty and not give in to trying people in the media like every one else. I will say i appreciate your intelligent responds but this article is completely inappropriate. this article calls them heartless horse killers before they have been even proven as such. the criminal code is insistent until proven guilty so let him be proven guilty before you go out calling them heartless horse killers . take this article down until such time.

        • Linda Apr 5 2011 - 9:18 pm Reply

          Look buddy, all that they are doing is attemting to stand up for the one’s who can not stand up for themselves (the animals) These guy’s were obviously caught 4 some involvment at least they can speak, unlike the slaughtered animals that can not.

          • tim Apr 5 2011 - 11:50 pm

            if you look deeper buddy it looks like they are accused by people wanting reward money. in fact the wild horse foundation had to have their lawyers to tell these guys to stop calling them. this is all about money i have no problem with you standing up for animals but at least find out the facts before posting articles like this ok buddy. i do appreciate the change in title but this article still needs to come down. oh and people have rights to.

          • daisy Apr 6 2011 - 8:04 am

            It is not uncommon for rewards to be posted to help solve mysteries — to find children, bring killers to justice, locate criminals, etc. Money is a great motivator. However payment of the reward is dependent upon conviction on the charges laid. It is not paid out just because someone comes forward with a tip. I don’t think you can diminish the value of the reward by saying “this is all about money.”

            In this case, someone came forward with a tip that the authorities investigated and found evidence to charge the individuals with.

            Animal abuse touches people emotionally, especially when abuse is so heartless. I stand behind the article’s comment that the person/people who committed *this* act are “heartless horse killers,” however I also respect that this trial is ongoing and at this time, the people charged with this crime are only “alleged horse killers.”

  • tim Apr 5 2011 - 2:30 pm Reply

    oh and if your not impressed with the delay go talk to the crown about their shaky case.

  • rebecca Apr 5 2011 - 8:52 pm Reply

    Yea i saw the case on the news it looks like a another corruption in the rcmp.
    hope this site apologise to these man after they are clear.

    • J Apr 6 2011 - 5:27 am Reply

      This site has nothing to apologize for. DAISY did not write the article.
      I’m not sure how Tim can say “these guys are not guilty” when he also has not heard the evidence.
      Is it just a coincidence that Pat Nixon very recently retired? A little young for that, isn’t he? Has The Mustard Seed made him so rich that he can retire so young? Also, I wonder where all the money came from to hire such costly lawyers? Hmmmm…Mustard Seed fundraisers, perhaps? A family who runs a “Christian Ministry” for the needy is typically not a wealthy family.
      My guess is that they will ‘get off’, but not because of innocence but because of a pathetic system with weak animal cruelty laws.
      I sincerely doubt that the RCMP would charge folks that run a ministry for the needy unless they were confident they were charging the right people. Why on Earth would they want to drag a name like The Mustard Seed or the Nixon family name through the dirt? They wouldn’t because it would look horrible on them if they were mistaken. They were charged because there was significant evidence to charge them. And again, yes, they probably will ‘walk’ – in Alberta, money talks. We all know this. Evidence no longer has much to do with the outcome of a case. The unjust outcome of many cases has to do with how lawyers can twist and manipulate things, in addition to the incompetence of the Crown prosecutor.

      • tim Apr 6 2011 - 8:51 am Reply

        Again lets not drag Pat Nixon in to this he is a man who has helped thousands oh and he has not retired he is working with a new organization. i also know the seed has paid nothing for the lawyers and that the crown forced them to all have a seperate lawyer so their woldent be so many as you call them “high priced lawyers” if it was because the crown forced it. oh and what is it illegal for some one to have a good defence in this country wait they havent even gotten in to court yet so the high priced lawyer has done nothing and the case is falling apart. oh and i know that family they are not wealthy living in north east calgary Pat Nixon is not retired and again lets not drag Jason Family in to this. hmm we should start questioning the RCMP When the lead detective has been replaced after trial was suppose to start maybe their is a problem with the RCMP. they would like to drag it through the dirt to get a confession and your right they will look horrible and that is why they will try and drop the charges by letter in a few weeks. and your right evidence no longer has much to do with the RCMP is trying to dry these guys founds up that is why they through a bunch of other charged at him which have been dropped and forced them to have separate lawyers. the crown is not incompetent when the charges are dropped it will be because there is no evidence. now as i said i appreciate the change in title but this article needs to come down because it links other deaths that are not associated to these men and drags a good mans name through the mud in Pat Nixon. please take this article down.

  • J Apr 6 2011 - 4:33 pm Reply

    Just because someone has done some good in their life does not mean they aren’t capable of doing some bad as well. Actually, many who go out of their way to appear to be ‘saints’ are often hiding nasty secrets.
    I’m not going to respond to the rest of what Tim last wrote because truthfully, I can’t completely understand it. I’m honestly not trying to be critical, but the lack of punctuation and all the run-on sentences make Tim’s posts difficult to decipher.

  • laurel Apr 6 2011 - 5:01 pm Reply

    even if the seed was paying there lawyer that is a very normal thing for a company to do when there worker are being accused by client of the seed. 25g is allot of money for these guys living on the street. this is a very normal thing when you are paying for witness that you well get made up story. i agree that we just need to wait and see how this all plays out but you got to be pretty dumb to not see some thing is not right on the crown side when they need more time after a year.

  • DR Apr 8 2011 - 3:59 pm Reply

    Weighing in…
    The fact that Jason Nixon was in Didsbury Provincial Court on March 3 on an unrelated charge (about an illegally shot deer) and is on tape threatening Wildlife Officer Marius, does not speak well to his character. The fact that he offered to “service” Mr. Marius’ “old lady” speaks volumes about his morals. Verdict to be read by Judge Graham on June 13th.

    If the Seed believes in Jason’s innocence, why was the Mountain Aire Lodge shut down for the winter and Jason fired from being manager?

    These are facts, Tim, and not slanderous musings.

  • Jim Apr 8 2011 - 7:30 pm Reply

    DR those are not facts.

    First Mr. Nixon has never been charged with illegally shooting a deer. Check your facts. He did receive a ticket under the wildlife act for inproper transportation which is the equivliant of running a red light.

    Second Mr. Nixon was not fired not sure where your got that from but I guarantee if you phone the Mustard Seed they will tell you he is not fired. Yes Mountain Aire has been shut down for the winter to put all the Mustard Seed resources into their highrise homeless housing project which has nothing to do with this siuation. So Dr you arer saying slanderous musings not facts and should be careful.

    As for the siaution with officer Mirus. I was a witness to that siaution and testified in court and Jason did nothing illegal and it was pretty clear that he won that trial and I would be suprised if he was found guilty the judge basically said as much at the end of that trial.

    As for being rude to Mirus he only said what many of us would like to say to him. Officer Mirus is not well liked in the Sundre aera. Expressing your dislike of someone is not illegal. No where on the tape which I listen to many times did Mr. Nixon once threaten the officer which is why he well be found not guilty.

    As for thr horses who ever is shooting them is disgusting and should face the full blunt of the law. But I know Nixon is not the one. I am sure all charges will be dropped with in a week or two not because of a tecnicality but because it just did not happen and the evidince shows it.

  • Jim Apr 8 2011 - 7:50 pm Reply

    As well the crown dropped the assault charges without trial so there must not have been any evidince towards that issue.

    I support DAISY in regards to animal abuse issues. But I think even DAISY agrees that they do not want someone convicted if they did not do it. So for now the crown investigates the new evidince which must be pretty big for a judge to shut down a trial. If the evidince proves they did not do it then the crown I am sure will drop the charges which I think is right.

    Hopefully they catch the scum bags who are doing this but they need to catch the right scum bags. Nixon is a great guy well loved by us in the Sundre area and he simply did not do this and is likely about to be a whole lot richer when the lawsuites start for wrongful prosecution.

  • Ricky Apr 10 2011 - 7:47 pm Reply

    I am sure he is not guilty from watching the twist on the news.
    but i guess we well all find out when its all done and i am sure we well all agree at the end.

    Good luck Dasiy foundation

  • Lise Apr 10 2011 - 9:01 pm Reply

    I am Jason’s mom and Pat’s wife and I accidentally found this site tonight. I find all these back and forth comments and speculations, and there is a lot of speculation, very sad.

    I guess I am at an advantage as I know what the evidence is that is now before the Crown, so I can confidently know that Jason did not shoot a horse. The system will play itself out and regardless of the verdict there will be those that will judge Jason and our family and believe what they want. Once a lie has been said, it is like throwing a bag of feathers in the wind, it is impossible to regather all the feathers.

    This does not bother me as Pat & I and our family live our lives for an audience of one. That audience is my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. When it is all said and done, I only worry about what He thinks about me. He too was falsely accused and was crucified for it. But as He was dying He said forgive them for they do not not know what they are doing.

    I forgive any of you who wrongly judge us. I know I have heard part of a story and have wrongly judged before. God says to love your enemies and to treat your neighbour like you would like to be treated. Can you imagine our world if we could all truly love each other, speak kindly and forgive.

    Now that would make a better world both for human and animals.

  • K.B Apr 28 2011 - 10:38 am Reply

    So Libin, I light of the what happend April 27th I would say you missed the mark. So unfortunate your need to have a story over-ran the Canadian ideal that someone is not guilty until proven. I hope you enjoyed writing your article, hopefuly one of your last with the National Post. I am sure the New York Times has a opening, until then Dan Rather may be up for hanging out.

  • William Goodrich Apr 28 2011 - 11:17 am Reply

    Well, now all evidence has been brought forward, maybe we can judge someone else and wreck there lives too. I would think an organization of this stature would be a top notch professional society. Don’t get me wrong, I believe your organization is doing a great job for the animals, I commend you for that. I would hope next time you would not judge anyone before the facts are known. I too would like to see the perpetrators caught and sentenced, but not at the expense of being found guilty before trial. This is not the old west. My prayers go out to the Nixon’s and I truly believe it would be in your best interest to admit your society went overboard on this one. Hmmmm, death threats, loss of numerous jobs, homes taken away from good people, a young lad had the opportunity of a lifetime living in this beautiful valley, all gone. All because media, and organizations all jumped the gun. It was nice too see you posted a small article on your website, but why not put the whole true story out there. Is it a bit embarrassing? At least your lives can go forward. There are more victims than the Nixons and the men accused of this crime, there are also friends and family as well has the horse lovers have all been victimized, as well as the majestic horses that have died for no apparant reason except for ignorance. I am personally asking you to step up to the plate and do the right thing with an apology to all parties and a full article on your website, this would be the right thing for a professional society too do.

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