Peter Khill guilty of manslaughter, not guilty of murder in killing of Jon Styres

Peter Khill guilty of manslaughter, not guilty of murder in killing of Jon Styres

A Hamilton jury found Peter Khill guilty not of second-degree murder but manslaughter after he shot and killed Jon Styres in 2016.

After around 13 hours of deliberation, the 12-strong jury reached its verdict on Friday afternoon.

At 17:06 Khill learned of his fate.

As the verdict was read, the courtroom was tense and silent before tears fell from both Khill’s and Styres’ family. They muffled whimpers and screams.

Khill shook his head shortly after the verdict was announced. Shortly thereafter, he hugged his wife and other family members.

“If he had stayed home, none of this would have happened,” a man yelled at Khill’s side as some Styres family members exited the courtroom. There were numerous police officers in the room to prevent further confrontations.

There is no minimum penalty for manslaughter unless it is committed with a firearm, in which case the minimum penalty is four years in prison.

Khill will not be in custody over the weekend, but at 10 a.m. Tuesday, December 20, Ontario Superior Court Justice Andrew Goodman will decide whether to revoke his bail. His sentencing will come at a later date.

Khill, 26 at the time of the shooting, pleaded not guilty and said he defended himself because he thought Styres had a gun and was about to pull the trigger.

Styres, a 29-year-old Six Nations man, had a knife in his pocket and tried to steal Khill’s truck. He didn’t have a gun.

Khill was initially acquitted in the first trial in 2018 before being ordered by Canada’s Supreme Court last year to face a new trial.

The second trial lasted only a few days in November and ended in a failed trial.

The case had a particularly high profile in 2016 due to its similarities to the 2016 death of 22-year-old Cree man Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan.

Before the trial began, jurors were asked if they had any prejudices, beliefs or preconceived notions about Indigenous men.

“A little justice” mixed with fear

Lindsay Hill, Styres’ partner and mother of his two children, left the courtroom with tears in her eyes.

“There was a bit of justice for Jon, but it’s still extremely painful that they didn’t come back with second-degree murder,” she told reporters.

“It’s very disappointing that he can go home and see his kids and spend time with his wife when I and my kids don’t have that option. We must deal with this loss for the rest of our lives.”

A woman speaks to reporters.
Lindsay Hill was Jon Styres’ partner. They had two children together. She said she wanted Peter Khill found guilty of second-degree murder for fatally shooting Styres. (Bobby Christova/CBC)

A woman points to a picture of a person pinned to her scarf.
Rhonda Johns, Jon Styres’ aunt, points to a picture of Debbie Hill, Styres’ mother. (Bobby Christova/CBC)

Jessica Hill, Styres’ first cousin, and Rhonda Johns, Styres’ aunt, echoed some of these sentiments. They both had a picture of Debbie Hill, Styres’ mother, pinned to their clothing because she was in hospital and unable to attend.

“As a family, we’re disappointed with the outcome,” Jessica said. “It’s not the result we wanted, but we know it [Khill] must bear that title for the rest of his life.”

Crown Attorney Paul McDermott and Assistant Crown Attorney Sean Doherty declined to comment.

Khill’s wife Melinda declined to comment. Defense attorney Jeffrey Manishen also declined to comment.

Dave Oleniuk, a now-retired Hamilton Police case manager involved in the Khill investigation, said the verdict was “to some extent an endorsement of the rule of law.”

“You just can’t kill people who commit petty theft,” he said.

It is unclear whether an appeal will be filed.

The night Styres died

The 12-member jury heard Khill testify that on February 4, 2016, he and Melinda were awakened at 3 a.m. by a loud bang outside their rural home in Hamilton.

Khill, a former reservist, said his military training kicked in, prompting him to take his shotgun, load it with two grenades and move towards the noise.

He said he intends to confront and arrest anyone who is outside to get the situation under control.

Peter Khill used a shotgun to shoot Jon Styres while Styres was stealing his truck. (Ministry of Attorney General’s Office)

Khill said he exited his home through the back door and entered an airway connecting his home and garage, using military techniques to move silently.

She led him to Styres, who came within ten feet of him and was hunched over the truck’s passenger seat, oblivious to Khill’s presence.

Khill said that upon seeing Styres’ silhouette, he immediately yelled, “Hey, hands up!”

HEAR | Peter Khill speaking to the dispatcher after shooting Jon Styres:

Peter Khill speaks to the 911 dispatcher after shooting and killing Jon Styres

The jury heard a 911 call just after Peter Khill shot Jon Styres. Khill is on trial for second-degree murder.

After seeing Styres’ hands come together and move above waist level, Khill said he fired two shots because he thought Styres was armed.

Crown prosecutors argued that Khill was not out there trying to apprehend Styres but was angry and determined to kill anyone who was by his truck.

They also testified that Khill shot Styres in the chest and then shot him again when Styres was on his hands and knees.

The Crown called numerous witnesses, including responding officers and a firearms expert, while the defense called in a forensic psychiatrist who was able to testify how repeated military training can be long-lasting and their default response under stress.

Six Nations Fellowship will try to heal: Chief

Mark Hill, Chair of the Six Nations Elected Council, was with Lindsay Hill at the sentencing hearing. The two grew up as close friends.

While Styres was not brought to trial as an indigenous person, Mark Hill said he hoped the case could contribute to talks about how indigenous people are treated in colonial processes such as the courts.

Two people stand together.
Mark Hill, leader of the Six Nations Elected Council, stood next to Lindsay Hill, the mother of Jon Styres’ two children, outside the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton on Friday, waiting for the jury to reach a verdict in the Peter Khill murder trial. Khill was found guilty of manslaughter. (Bobby Christova/CBC)

“I want to continue this dialogue with Lindsay to find out what specific challenges she witnessed and went through this process that we can continue to support going forward,” he told CBC News before the ruling was announced.

“I don’t want to play race games, but it’s clear from previous experiences with tribal peoples in the system that sometimes race is still a big problem,” he said, referring to the Boushie case.

CBC Hamilton also contacted the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the hereditary leadership in the community, for comment, but received no response.

Mark Hill said the community will also need time to process the situation.

“We all need to look at what that healing path looks like.”

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