Accused Murderer Seeks Refugee Status

Accused murderer seeks refugee status
Californian arrested in Fort Langley hopes to avoid death penalty in home state

Darah Hansen
Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A California man arrested in Fort Langley Friday in connection with a grisly murder in his home state is seeking to remain in Canada as a refugee in an effort to avoid facing the death penalty across the border.

Details of the background of Arthur Charles Carnes IV began to emerge Tuesday, the same day the 36-year-old caretaker of a rural property in Sacramento County made his first appearance before the Immigration and Refugee Board in Vancouver.

Carnes — who also goes by the names Chuck Carnes and Ned Kelly — is linked to a website that invites discussion and advice on how to make explosives, The Sun has learned.

RCMP have described him as a “survivalist” with “anti-government tendencies.”

Carnes is wanted in Sacramento for the first-degree murder of 41-year-old Matthew Seybert. He is also charged with stealing Seybert's identity.

Seybert's dismembered body was found Dec. 8 in a creek close to the 15-hectare rental property he shared with Carnes.

Seybert — a lawn mower repairman — was reported missing Nov. 18, around the same time Carnes disappeared.

A two-month manhunt launched by Sacramento County investigators ended Friday.

Carnes was arrested on an immigration warrant by RCMP at a home in Fort Langley. Police suspected Carnes had illegally entered B.C. after learning Seybert's ATM card had been used between California and the Canadian border.

A search of the home where he had been staying uncovered an automatic assault weapon, ammunition and, according to RCMP, “evidence connected to the murder in California.”

Initially only Carnes was arrested in connection with the police raid. However, criminal charges in connection with the case were sworn against a second man over the weekend.

Christopher Rempel is alleged to have helped Carnes get over the border into Canada. Rempel appeared in Surrey Provincial Court Monday on a charge of conspiracy, but that charge was stayed.

In an interview Tuesday, Crown counsel John Labossiere said his office determined it was unlikely to get a conviction in the case. That decision was made “after consulting with senior members of the RCMP investigation team,” he said.

Tuesday was also the day Carnes was to appear, via video conference from his jail cell at the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre, for a detention review before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The hearing was quickly closed to the public, however, after Carnes said he would be seeking refugee status. The matter has been adjourned to Feb. 7.

Immigration lawyer Phil Rankin said he has spoken with Carnes about taking on the case and is prepared to represent him.

At issue in the case are fears his client may be put to death if he is sent back to California, and subsequently convicted of murder, Rankin said.

Canada has refused to send even convicted killers over the border without first gaining assurances from U.S. officials they will not seek capital punishment.

The U.S. could move to extradite Carnes should it grow frustrated with Canada's immigration process. However, extradition is a much more legally complicated and time-consuming route than deportation, requiring a formal hearing of the B.C. Supreme Court and the agreement of the Minister of Justice. A deportation order requires a much lower standard of evidence and could potentially be concluded in a matter of weeks.

Carnes's refugee claim could delay his deportation, but is unlikely to ultimately hold much water with the IRB. Carnes's status as a foreign national charged with first-degree murder will more than likely make him ineligible for consideration.

Convicted serial killer Charles Ng dragged out his extradition to California for six years before he was returned to the U.S. in 1991 to face trial for multiple killings. Ng was originally arrested in 1985 in Calgary and served a prison term of 41/2 years for shooting a security guard during a bungled shoplifting attempt. His extradition went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ng went to trial in 1998. He was convicted of 11 murders, of six men, three women and two young boys. He remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

First-degree murder remains punishable by death in California. Capital punishment in California, however, has been on hold indefinitely as a result of separate legal challenges to lethal injection in the U.S. Supreme Court and in federal court in San Jose.