Canada’s Minister of Justice has ordered a new trial in the case of a British Columbia father who was convicted of two second-degree murder nearly 40 years ago.
Thomas Yepes was found guilty of the death of his two adoptive sons in 1983 after their bodies were discovered in a fire in the family’s home in Surrey, British Columbia.
Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement that after a comprehensive review, he expressed his conviction that the new trial was necessary to ensure a fair process in the case.
“Promoting a fair and impartial criminal justice system that respects the needs of victims while protecting against potential miscarriages of justice is critical to strengthening Canadians’ confidence in our legal system,” he said.
The separation of the spouses
Court documents show that Yebes and his wife, Elvira, were separated, but asked to return to the family home the night the boys died.
Yibs testified at his original trial that he told Elvira that he was unable to support two families and “they had to come together”.
Elvira cried and was upset, but he told the court that she accepted what he told her.
The trial heard that Elvira and the couple’s two daughters had left the house around 8 PM, and the boys were already in bed.
Yibs testified that he went to bed at 10 pm before waking up later to the smell of smoke to find the boys dead on a burning mattress.
A fire expert testified that the fire was intentionally set and a pathologist provided evidence that the boys had died before the fire broke out, but was unable to determine the cause of their deaths.
The forensic doctor told the court that he scheduled the boy’s death no later than 12:30 a.m. and possibly before 10:30 p.m.
The appeal was rejected
Jepps’s appeals were dismissed to the Court of Appeals of British Columbia in 1985 and the Supreme Court of Canada in 1987.
He had previously argued that the Crown had failed to summon his wife as a witness and that it was necessary to narrate the case.
The Supreme Court rejected the appeal, saying that the assumption that Ybis’ wife had something to say was based on “nothing more than speculation” as there was no evidence that she was present or aware of what happened.
Yibs submitted his request for ministerial review in 2019.
Lammetti’s statement said that if the Minister of Justice is convinced that there is reasonable basis for inferring the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, a new trial or appeal is required.