Jesse Blue West says he did not kill Chelsey Acorn - he simply buried her body in a misguided attempt to protect his son.
West, 60, testified Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack. He is on trial charged with the first-degree murder of 14-year-old Chelsey.
On the afternoon of June 11, 2005, West said he went to a campsite along the Coquihalla River just north of Hope to pick up his son, Dustin Blue Robert Moir, and Chelsey.
Moir and Chelsey, who were dating, were in a "heated argument" when he arrived, West said. They were talking about their relationship and the prospect of Chelsey moving in with West.
West said he told his son that he would give them a few minutes to end the argument and pack up. He said he unlocked the trunk of the car and went for a short walk by the river.
As he walked toward the campsite, West said he saw that Moir and Chelsey were still arguing.
West said Moir was gesticulating as he talked and hit Chelsey, causing her to fall to the ground.
"I don't think he planned it or meant it on purpose," West said.
He said Chelsey had a gash on her forehead and he couldn't tell if she was breathing or had a pulse.
"It looked really serious and obviously things didn't look too good," West said.
He said he put a blanket on Chelsey and looked at her more closely, but couldn't find signs of life.
"I went into recovery mode," West said. "As far as I was concerned I had a couple choices. I could call 911 and turn my son in, or I could hide the problem as long as possible, and I decided to make the wrong decision and hide it."
West said he told Moir to pack up and dug a shallow grave in the fire pit using a machete and his hands. He said he took Chelsey's clothes off before burying her so that it would take longer for her to be identified. West said he placed her body in the hole and then covered it with rocks and dirt. He said he did this gently.
"I did have respect for her," West said.
Her body was found by hikers in April 2006.
"Did you have anything to do with causing the death of Chelsey Acorn?" defence lawyer Brian Coleman asked.
"No, I did not," West responded.
Coleman asked West about interactions he had with police after Chelsey died, encounters that were videotaped and played in court. West was the subject of a "Mr. Big" police undercover operation, during which he admitted to a supposed crime boss that he had strangled Chelsey.
West said he was lying to the officer and Coleman asked West why he told the officer those things if they were untrue. West said he had been promised trips, a truck, a motorcycle and money.
"Those are great incentives to say whatever you want me to say," West said.
Crown prosecutor Carolyn Kramer grilled West on the details of what he says happened on June 11, 2005, focusing on his description of the campsite and how he buried Chelsey. The description West gave of the area where he said he buried Chelsey's body differs from where she was found.
Cheryl Walden, who fostered Chelsey and is a friend of the family, said she was fuming as she listened to West's testimony.
"It's just ridiculously unbelievable," Walden said.
Walden said she's disturbed that Chelsey's family and friends are unlikely to find out the truth about the teenager's death.
"Families want to know what happened to their loved one - why," Walden said. "Chelsey was just such a wonderful young lady, she had so much going for her. Why would anybody want to murder a 14-year-old?"