The family of a man hammered and stabbed to death in his Christchurch home have faced down his killers – both Mongrel Mob associates – lambasting them in court for their callous, cruel and “revolting” crime.
The convicted killers were sentenced today but not before they heard harrowing and emotional statements from the victim’s family, including his partner of 20 years who now has to watch his children navigate a “huge and destructive loss”.
Brendon Ross died on March 4 last year after he was attacked with a hammer and repeatedly stabbed before his carotid artery was cut.
Curtis Taila Wealleans and Juan Isaacs Marsh, also known as Joseph Mahi, were charged with his murder.
Both men denied the charge.
Marsh, now 60, was found guilty of murder by jury following a trial in the High Court at Christchurch in July.
Wealleans – who while in custody after the trial has had Mongrel Mob Aotearoa gang markings tattooed on his face – was acquitted on the murder charge, but found guilty of manslaughter.
The court heard that Marsh is the cousin of a senior Mongrel Mob gang member and Curtis was living at the patched member’s home at the time of the murder.
Both men admitted attacking Ross in his own home, but denied there was any intent to kill him.
The 50-year-old died in his studio unit within a Kainga Ora community housing complex on Riccarton Rd after he was hit multiple times around the head and back with a hammer and stabbed repeatedly in the neck.
During the trial Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh explained Ross had a relationship with a woman who lived at the same housing complex.
When it ended the pair “developed an intense dislike for each other” and argued frequently.
Police were called multiple times after “acrimonious” and”vicious” arguments and the jury heard that Ross and a friend “abused and harassed” the woman often.
Marsh was a friend of the woman and witnessed some of the abuse.
Zarifeh said he became “increasingly frustrated and angry” and took matters into his own hands.
Days before the alleged murder Marsh messaged the woman and said “karma is coming round with bark and bite”.
“This will be all over before you know it,” he told her.
Zarifeh told the jury that Marsh turned to his cousin Raihania “Ra” King – a senior member of the Mongrel Mob Aotearoa chapter in Christchurch – for “back up” on a visit to Ross.
That is how he met Wealleans, who at the time was living in a sleepout at King’s property on Maces Rd in Bromley.
Marsh and Wealleans met the night of the murder, travelled to the housing complex and “set upon” Ross.
After the murder Marsh dropped Wealleans off in Bromley and drove to the Port Hills where he dumped bloodied clothing, wipes, seat covers from his car and the knife.
He then drove around the city before going to McDonald’s to “get a feed” and returned to his home at Wigram.
After the alleged murder Marsh texted one person saying “done” and texted King about Wealleans using common Mongrel Mob wording.
Wealleans texted his partner and said: “I might have killed someone last night, I’m not lying, I’m not kidding… delete this message now.”
When spoken to police both men denied any involvement.
They later admitted being at the unit and attacking Ross and police recovered the hammer used in the attack in a fishpond at King’s property.
The jury heard accounts from a number of people about the lead-up to the alleged murder, the night of the attack and the aftermath.
After hearing all of the evidence the jury deliberated and found Marsh guilty of murder and Wealleans of the lesser alternative charge of manslaughter.
A victim remembered – and his killers slammed
This afternoon the men were sentenced by Justice Gerard Nation.
Ross’ uncle Ken Taylor read a victim impact statement to the court.
He said he had been through much tragedy and trauma and his life including active service in the Navy but had never experienced anything like the horror of losing his nephew.
He said Marsh and Wealleans were “cold and ruthless killers”.
He said Ross was just 2 when his mother died in tragic circumstances.
He spent time living with his uncle but was later raised by his father and stepmother who was responsible for having him committed to a mental institution.
Ross had a difficult life, his uncle said, but was an extremely articulate person and qualified as a journalist for a minor local radio station.
Ken Taylor said it was hard to listen to evidence during the trial and said his killers were “spineless”.
“I miss him… it is having a profound effect on me emotionally,” he said.
He said he could not get past images in his head of Marsh “slaughtering” his nephew.
He said Marsh’s gang connection was “frightening”.
Ken Taylor said Wealleans was “dumb as a rock but dangerous” with a desire to impress his gang connections.
He lambasted the pair for their attitude in court – giving gang hand signals to people in the public gallery, looking “bored” and “stone-faced” like they did not care.
Ross’ cousin Sarah Taylor also read a victim impact statement.
She said Ross, who she knew as “B” was funny, intelligent, loving and “a safe place”.
She considered him a brother and fondly recalled the time he spent living with her family during their childhood.
“He was thoughtful and articulate … he certainly wasn’t violent … he will always be with us in our hearts and our thoughts, no one will take that away,” she said.
She turned to the killers and said their selfish and mindless actions had impacted many people with their “hideous act”.
Sarah Taylor said she was disgusted with the killers’ behaviour during the trial and it made her realise they had “no empathy” and a “complete indifference” for Ross’ friends and family.
“I do believe you did it to get some sort of membership to a club … who uses a hammer on a man screaming for his life after being stabbed?” she said.
The men did not react to Sarah Taylor’s statement.
“You likely don’t have the emotional intelligence … I am hurt, angry, disgusted, appalled … the only way I can describe your actions is revolting,” she said.
“You have affected so many lives … if you’ve done it once, what’s to stop you doing it again?
“We as a family are facing a lifetime sentence for the loss of our beloved B, he will never be forgotten.”
Rebecca Smith, another cousin, then spoke about the loss of Ross.
She was haunted by his last moments after being attacked in his own home and left to die.
“My hope is that he knew how much he was loved at that time … I struggle how anyone could be driven to commit such a heartless crime,” she said in her statement, read by a support person.”
Smith also said she was disturbed by the killers’ behaviour in court – emotionless and cold as the family heard and saw graphic evidence relating to the violent death.
She, like others in the family, did not accept that Wealleans did not mean to kill Ross.
He took a weapon and used it, repeatedly.
“Brendon had no chance,” she said.
She said Ross’ death was “cruel and vicious” and said “no sentence will ever be enough” in the eyes of his family.
Julie Marshall was Ross’ partner for 20 years and the pair share two sons and daughter aged between 6 and 17.
She said his death was a “huge and destructive tragedy”.
Marshall said along with losing their father her children had to live with how he died.
They struggled to cope with the murder and her youngest still shook and cried and asked where his father was.
They loved their father “very, very much”.
“Brendon was my whole adult life … every day together,” she said.
“It has been almost two years and I still lie awake and night thinking about what he went through … the last moments of his life.
“To have to tell your children their dad has been killed … has been so extremely hard.”
Marshall said words escaped her other than Ross’ death was “a complete tragedy for everyone involved”.
Ross brother Jimmy had a statement read on his behalf.
He said the killers were callous, cruel and cowardly.
“Brendon had demons … and for the first time he was claiming his life back – and then he was no more,” he said.
The brothers were reconnecting in the months before the murder and had plans to grow their relationship.
“It was fantastic to have my brother back in my life … our future together has been taken from us,” he said.
“My brother died in his pyjamas in his own home, trying to defend himself, crying for help.”
Brutal, callous, violent – killers backgrounds revealed
Crown prosecutor Kerry White sought a sentence of life imprisonment for Marsh with a minimum non-parole period of at least 17-18 years.
She said there was a high level of violence, callousness, brutality and violence in the murder.
It was premeditated and it showed Marsh was a man “dealing to his own form of justice”.
He had a criminal history but the offending was historic and did not need to be considered.
For Wealleans, who had a history of violent offending, she called for a 13-year jail sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 50 per cent.
She said his offending consisted of extreme violence, an attack to Ross’ head and premeditation.
“He knew he was going along to do something … to carry out a serious assault,” she said.
“The injuries were the most lethal kind – attacking the head.”
The element of home invasion – attacking a man late at night when he was home alone and not expecting anyone to visit – made the attack more even serious.
Marsh’s lawyer Paul McMenamin read a letter of apology in court from the killer to Ross’ family.
“My intent was not to take Brendan’s life,” he claimed in the letter.
“I apologise for the pain I have caused.”
McMenamin said his client was “not a man of letters” or extravagant language but had indicated he had “deep remorse and regret” over the death.
He asked Justice Nation to consider the “deprivation, pain, victimisation” that Marsh had faced in his personal life.
He did not elaborate in open court but said it was “quite extraordinary over the last 30 years” that Marsh had “been able to put his life in order”.
“This is a tragedy for everybody,” he said.
Wealleans’ lawyer Craig Ruane said his client was “stupid” but “did not think” the violence he inflicted on Ross would be fatal.
“He went along to assist and provide backup,” Ruane said.
He said Wealleans “turned his back” on Marsh to start with and when he looked back “the deed had been done”.
Ruane sought a term without a minimum non-parole period.
He said his client “had an unfortunate start to life” and “fell into the hand” so the Mongrel Mob.
“That’s something we see all to often with young Māori men,” he said.
A life for a life – the judge's sentence delivered
Justice Nation outlined the offending in court before he handed down his sentence.
He said while Marsh had no formal connection to the Mongrel Mob at the time of the killing, he was once a gang member but had “realised he needed to leave” many years ago.
A cultural and pre-sentence report revealed Marsh had had a rough upbringing, including abuse and alcohol and drug use, limited education, time in state care and that he got involved with the gang when he was 15.
However, after a stint in prison in his 20s, he left the gang, moved to Christchurch and went straight.
Then in 2020 he once more turned to the Mongrel Mob which led to the murder.
Justice Nation suspected Wealleans was involved in the crime to impress the gang and perhaps even as a way of seeking membership.
He said while Wealleans told the police he was “a gang member” or “meant to be” he was torn by his actions.
While he may have put on a tough facade in court, Justice Nation suspected Wealleans knew what he did was wrong and “senseless”.
He posed that a more senior gang member would never have been sent with Marsh that night and said it was sad for Wealleans that he was not protected better by the group he wanted so badly to be part of.
Justice Nation sentenced Marsh to life in prison – the automatic starting sentence for someone convicted of murder – with a minimum non-parole period of 13-and-a-half years.
He said based on the very specific facts of the case a 17-year minimum term would simply be manifestly unjust.
Justice Nation said Wealleans also had had a troubled childhood punctuated with violence and abuse and “remonstration and revenge” for perceived wrongdoing.
He struggled at school and as a teen began to use drugs and alcohol.
Regardless, Justice Nation said Wealleans needed to take responsibility for the choices he had made.
A cultural report further stated that Wealleans said he had “disappointed” his grandmother who tried to raise and support him.
And he had let his own children down by making the choice to do the Mongrel Mob’s bidding.
“You were not just a bystander … you were an active participant,” he said.
“You shut and locked the door so no one could come to Brendon Ross’ aid … you assisted in rendering Brendon Ross defenceless by hitting him on the head with a hammer.
“In no way was your involvement minor … you were a willing participant.”
Justice Nation sentenced Wealleans to nine-and-a half years in prison for his part in the slaying of Brendon Ross but did not impose a minimum term of imprisonment on account of his troubled and abusive childhood.
Further, he wanted to give the offender a realistic chance of getting away from the gang and keeping him in prison for a set time would not help with that.
He urged him to get himself away from that influence and turn his life around and make something of himself in future.
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