Tyler Hikoalok murder trial to resume Monday

Cambridge Bay man accused in violent 2018 killing of Elisabeth Salm in Ottawa

The first-degree murder trial of Tyler Hikoalok, 22, is set to resume Monday after being adjourned unexpectedly early last month. Hikoalok stands accused of the 2018 murder of Elisabeth Salm in Ottawa. (Courtroom sketch by Lauren Foster-MacLeod)

By Madalyn Howitt

Warning: This story contains graphic content.

After weeks of unexpected delays, the first-degree murder trial of Tyler Hikoalok will resume Monday with defence lawyers expected to open their case.

Hikoalok, 22, of Cambridge Bay, is accused of killing volunteer librarian Elisabeth Salm in Ottawa on May 24, 2018.

Salm, 59, had been working her usual morning shift as a volunteer librarian at the Christian Science Reading Room when her co-worker found her badly injured, lying on the floor in the centre’s study room.

Doctors rushed to save Salm with emergency surgery at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, but their efforts were unsuccessful. She died the following afternoon on May 25 from a traumatic head injury.

Hikoalok, who was 18 at the time, was arrested two days later and charged with Salm’s murder.

Elisabeth Salm was a volunteer librarian at the Christian Science Reading Room in Ottawa when she was fatally attacked in 2018. Her husband Lyle Young said she was devoted to her community and causes like environmentalism. Tyler Hikoalok, 22, stands accused of first-degree murder in Salm’s death. (Photo courtesy of Lyle Young)

The trial has been hit with a series of delays over several months. It was meant to get underway in May, but a pre-trial motion pushed that back to a Sept. 12 start date.

After several weeks of testimony from witnesses, another delay in October put the trial on hold once again. The reasons for the adjournment are under a publication ban.

The Crown called more than 20 witnesses to the stand over the first three weeks of the trial, covering an “extraordinary amount” of evidence, according to judge Anne London-Weinstein.

Here is a recap of what’s been covered so far:

The jury heard moving testimony from Lyle Young, Salm’s husband of 28 years, who shared his recollections of the day he got the news that would change his life.

He and Salm were longtime members of the Christian Science Church and very involved in local causes, such as environmental activism. Salm sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and volunteered regularly at the church’s library.

Salm’s colleague, Janet Dudley, discovered Salm in that same library after the attack on May 24. Emergency responders described finding Salm in critical condition.

Medical experts and doctors who later treated her testified to the extent of her injuries. Forensic pathologist Dr. Alfredo Walker told the jury Salm had suffered 54 injuries. She had severe trauma to her head due to blunt force trauma, and there was evidence she had been sexually assaulted.

Trauma surgeon Dr. Giuseppe Pagliarello treated Salm upon her arrival at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. He said Salm’s condition that day “is etched in my mind” and described her injuries as “particularly horrific.”

Stills from a video timeline the Crown submitted as an exhibit show a man they allege is Tyler Hikoalok walking in front of the Christian Science Reading Room in Ottawa around the time that Elisabeth Salm was attacked inside the centre. The top two images show Hikoalok walking in front of the centre around 9:14 a.m., the bottom image shows Hikoalok leaving a side entrance of the building more than an hour later. (Images courtesy of Superior Court of Justice)

The Crown played a video of security footage showing Salm entering the Reading Room just before 9 a.m., which later shows Hikoalok entering the building about 15 minutes later.

He’s then seen on camera exiting a side entrance of the building roughly an hour later.

Investigators used the footage and DNA evidence found at the scene to track down Hikoalok and arrest and charge him with Salm’s murder.

The jury also heard testimony from educators who had known Hikoalok for years at the school he attended in downtown Ottawa. Teacher Tracey Ludmer recalled Hikoalok joining the other students for lunch, just an hour after the alleged attack on Salm.

He was well-liked by his peers, she said, and known for joking around in class. He was also very proud of the music he was working on, often playing the hip-hop tracks he worked on for his classmates.

School principal Ashley Potter said he didn’t notice anything unusual about Hikoalok’s behaviour when he helped prepare lunch in the kitchen on the day of Salm’s murder.

When the trial resumes Monday, the defence is expected to begin calling witnesses to the stand.

Hikoalok is represented by defence counsel Michael Smith and Brook Laforest. The Crown attorneys are Lisa Miles and Brian Holowka.

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