Three years after Edmonton killing, police undercover operation led to murder confession

The investigation into the killing of an Alberta trucker had gone cold for three years before police got the green light to mount a lengthy undercover operation. 

In May 2015, Randy Evans was asleep in the cab of his truck in west Edmonton when he was attacked by three men, hit in the head with a metal pipe and stabbed through the heart. His attackers got away.

This week, after a year of negotiations between the Crown and defence, one of those attackers, Richard Rockey, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 12 years.

The details of the Mr. Big sting that tripped up Rockey are contained in a 26-page decision written by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Larry Ackerl, who had to decide whether the evidence from the undercover operation was admissible. 

Three years after Evans was killed, Rockey was living in a rundown motel room with his girlfriend in Port Alberni, B.C. Undercover officers met up with him and enlisted his help to move beer kegs. He welcomed the work, because his only source of income was a monthly disability cheque, garnisheed for back taxes. 

Delivering beer kegs progressed to collecting and delivering contraband, including guns and drugs. Rockey, who was then 46, moved to Vancouver at the request of the supposed criminal organization and was given increasing responsibility.

During a voir dire hearing held in February and March 2020, the judge heard testimony from Rockey and two undercover officers. They are referred to only by initials, and their identities are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

Randy Evans, 54, was stabbed to death in May 2015. (Heartland Funeral Services)

Detective C was Mr. Big. Detective Y, also referred to as Carla, was Rockey’s primary handler during the months-long operation dubbed Project Hood. 

“As an experienced Mr. Big investigator, Detective C was programmed to ensure the accuracy of his evidence,” Ackerl wrote in his decision, dated April 2020. “That training and experience was reflected in the laudable quality of his evidence.” 

Crown prosecutor Marissa Tordoff told CBC News the sting was launched by Edmonton police with the assistance of the B.C. municipal undercover program, because Rockey was living in British Columbia. 

The judge said he did not find Rockey’s testimony during the voir dire to be credible or reliable, noting the accused had an “easy and repeated ability to lie” and was “convenient and dishonest in his testimony.” 

On the witness stand, Rockey tried to pin the murder on one of his partners. The judge didn’t believe him. 

Project Hood

During Project Hood, 56 scenarios were staged, including two fictional deaths that Rockey was told about after the fact. 

Detective C said those scenarios were designed to show Rockey that the organization would help its members by creating alibis, new forged identity documents and even international relocation.

They were paving the way for Rockey to ultimately confess to his crime. 

Richard Rockey, pictured in a 2014 Facebook photo. (Facebook/Richard Rockey)

The organization paid Rockey $8,425 in cash over the time he worked for them. They covered the cost of his motel accommodation when the room was being used to store contraband. That amounted to $9,700.

The judge decided the financial compensation did not amount to coercion. 

“At most, his modest lifestyle became modestly more comfortable,” Ackerl wrote. 

Rockey was told that a “big deal” was imminent and that he’d get enough money to afford a luxury vacation or  a vehicle. Carla promised him a key role, and Rockey was summoned to a Whistler, B.C., hotel room on April 26, 2018, to sit down with Mr. Big. 

The confession

During the one-on-one conversation, the crime boss said he had just found out police were now actively investigating Rockey for an Edmonton murder and an arrest warrant was being considered. 

Detective C called Rockey’s situation “a hiccup or a speed bump” and offered assistance. 

“I want to know from you if you want my help,” Mr. Big said in the meeting, recorded with a hidden camera. “If you don’t, you’re welcome to leave. I would never harm you. I will never bother you again.” 

Rocky said he wanted help, and described the murder of Randy Evans three times in great detail. He admitted he assaulted the trucker with a pipe and a knife and said he wore gloves during the stabbing. He also described his getaway. 

In return, Mr. Big told Rockey he would try to find him a good place to live, that he would receive reasonable wages and some large paydays along with a whole new name and a new secondary life. 

Rockey was arrested the next day with the help of Vancouver police and charged with first-degree murder. 

Justice Ackerl decided that if the case went to trial, the Mr. Big evidence would be admitted in its entirety. 

“Viewed in totality, police conduct in Project Hood was typical of Mr. Big operations,” Ackerl wrote. “Abuse of process does not arise.” 

Evans was 54 when he was killed. His younger sister was in the courtroom this week when Rockey was sentenced. 

“It was very hard to look at Mr. Rockey and know that his was the last face Randy saw,” Beth Johnson told CBC News. “But he is receiving his punishment for what he did.” 

Johnson praised the police agencies involved for solving the case. 

“They have always showed great kindness and compassion to us, and they never made us feel like Randy was a number,” she said. “We know how important Randy was and it makes us feel like they knew and cared about Randy.”

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