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Haverty murder trial Day 1: Was fatal shooting first degree murder or self-defence?

Court hears that Sean Haverty had threatened to kill Chris Schweitzer in the past
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Accused murderer Sean Wade Haverty is led out of the Ontario Court of Justice Monday, April 3, 2017. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

(Editor's note: This story contains strong language that some may find offensive.)

Sean Haverty shot and killed Chris Schweitzer nearly two years ago, but was it first degree murder or an act of self-defence?

That would appear to be at the crux of Haverty's first degree murder trial that started Monday at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Guelph.

Haverty, 50, and Schweitzer, 38, lived two doors apart on Tiffany Street East and there appeared to be some sort of ongoing conflict between the two that peaked around 7:30 p.m. on June 18, 2015, when Haverty went to Schweitzer's front door at 16 Tiffany St. E. carrying a .38 revolver.

Crown Attorney Judith MacDonald said an argument ensued, Schweitzer hit Haverty in the face with a glass bong used for smoking marijuana, cutting him badly, then Haverty fired two shots, one of them hitting Schweitzer in the throat. He died at the scene.

According to the Crown, Haverty then returned to his home and told his girlfriend "I got the fucker and the fucker got me."

Haverty was arrested two and a half hours later at Groves Memorial Hospital in Fergus where he was being treated for a "significant" facial injury.

The gun was later recovered hidden inside a piece of drainage tubing in a shed in Haverty's backyard.

"He is the person that shot Mr. Schweitzer," defence counsel Ari Goldkind said in court.

At question appears to be whether he did so to protect himself.

Several of Schweitzer's family members were in the courtroom, where his mother began sobbing as the Crown laid out her case for the seven-woman, five-man jury.

Haverty, a portly man with greying, combed back greying hair and wearing a tan linen blazer, untucked white dress shirt and grey casual pants, sat quietly in the prisoner's box.

"The issue is did he murder Christopher Schweitzer and was it planned and deliberate," MacDonald said in her opening statement.

She said Haverty had talked about killing Schweitzer in the past and offered details that showed Haverty did not like Schweitzer.

Haverty's girlfriend told police that she had previously seen Haverty yelling at Schweitzer from their front porch and that he told her "i'm going to kill that asshole, that retard."

Schweitzer, who lived with his longtime partner, suffered from schizophrenia and had drug problems, the Crown said.

The day before Schweitzer's death MacDonald said Haverty asked the woman that lived in the house between the two men "does the big fat guy ever bother you?"

The resident of an upstairs apartment in the same house as Schweitzer told police he had seen Haverty carrying a knife and looking through the windows of the house earlier the day of the shooting.

That man, Ken Trainer, was standing behind Schweitzer when he was shot.

Trainer has since passed away but a recording of his testimony will be played later in the trial, the Crown said.

After MacDonald had made her opening remarks, court heard from the case's first witness, the only one heard from Monday.

Shana Blackburn was out for a bike ride with her six-year-old daughter that evening and heard an argument as they rode up Tiffany Street.

She said that they were "loud voices arguing and escalating" and that she heard either the words "if you do that again i'm going to put a bullet in your head" or "I'll shoot you."

She said she then heard a loud "bang, bang, bang" that she first thought was two pieces of wood hitting together.

Blackburn and her daughter rode around the next corner and called 911. That call was played in court.

Under cross-examination defence counsel made it clear that Blackburn said she first heard a woman and a man arguing and that she heard a threat being issued.

The judge for the case is Justice Nancy Mossip, who prior to jury selection on Monday morning heard Haverty plead guilty to two gun-related charges.

The trial continues Tuesday. It is expected to last up to three weeks.