Breach of probation charge dropped against Panebianco

A Windermere man charged with criminal negligence causing death, assault and manslaughter had one count of breach of parole dropped.

  • Mar. 15, 2013 2:00 p.m.

Kristian Rasmussen/Invermere Valley Echo

A Windermere man charged with criminal negligence causing death, assault and manslaughter in the case of slain Invermere man, Cory Jarock, had one count of breach of parole dropped in Invermere Provincial Court on Monday, March 11.

Brian Panebianco, 24, was charged in the April 3, 2012 death of Mr. Jarock and was released on February 8 on $2,000 bail and a series of strict conditions, including abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

At around midnight on Saturday, March 9, Columbia Valley detachment member Const. Andrew Michaud and supporting officers performed a curfew check at Mr. Panebianco’s place of residence, Const. Michaud explained to the court.

When Mr. Panebianco opened the door, the constable detected a strong odour of what he believed to be burnt marijuana and immediately placed the accused under arrest. Const. Michaud noted that Mr. Panebianco’s eyes were glassy and his demeanor was consistent with someone under the influence of marijuana, he explained to presiding Judge Ron Webb.

Mr. Panebianco’s mother, Carmen Denise Salazar of Invermere, was tragically killed on February 20 when she was struck by a train in Athalmer. Greg Sawchuk, the defendant’s counsel, explained to the court that the odour of marijuana was in fact a mixture of burnt juniper and sage used by the grieving family as part of a cleansing ceremony to smudge the home in preparation for the acceptance of Ms. Salazar’s ashes.

“It is my submission that the officer was simply doing his duty, but was mistaken because he is not familiar with the smell,” Mr. Sawchuk told the court.

The glassy eyes and demeanor of Mr. Panebianco at the time of his arrest were likely a direct result of the emotional nature of bringing home the ashes of his mother, Mr. Sawchuk explained.

Crown counsel Basil McCormick did not agree with the defense’s argument.

“In my view it appears that this is a little too convenient,” he told the court. “It strikes me that the officer is pretty clear as to what he smelled.”

Const. Michaud, who has nearly five years of experience as an RCMP officer and has worked on numerous files involving marijuana and the dismantling of grow operations, admitted under cross-examination from Mr. Sawchuck that he is not familiar with the smell of sweet grass.

“The evidence is irrefutable,” Judge Ron Webb explained to the court. “I believe them (Mr. Panebianco and his family).”

Judge Webb dismissed the charge, but added another condition to Mr. Panebianco’s probation requirements. In the future, RCMP members will be allowed to search his place of residence without a warrant if they are under suspicion that parameters of parole are being broken.

Although the charges of breaching his parole have been dropped, Mr. Panebianco still faces counts of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, robbery and assault causing bodily harm.

His next appearance is scheduled for April 2 in Cranbrook Provincial Court.