Six months after Douglas ‘Bert’ Knockwood was shot in the back of the head, police are still looking for the man he called his “little brother.”
Mounties haven’t found Valdo Pauyo, a Haitian refugee who came to Canada as a child. He’s charged with second-degree murder in the death of Knockwood, a 42-year-old from Sipekne’katik First Nation.
“We’re still very much looking for him,” RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall said of Pauyo.
The pair told people they met in a Quebec prison, said a longtime friend of Knockwood.
“They were really close,” said Knockwood’s friend of 20 years.
Knockwood used the Mi’kmaq word njiknam, meaning my little brother, to describe Pauyo. That’s not something he would have done lightly, said his friend. “His culture was very near and dear to his heart.”
Pauyo — who went by C.J. — moved here from Montreal last spring, telling people he wanted a different lifestyle.
“Bert was going to help him find a place to stay until he could get a job down here,” said Knockwood’s pal, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of violent repercussions.
“He seemed pleasant enough — quiet. He didn’t seem like the type who would say a whole lot unless it was important to him.”
Pauyo “started to open up a little bit” about his Haitian roots one night last spring after smoking a few joints and having a few drinks, said the friend.
Pauyo talked about moving to Montreal a dozen years back with his siblings. Nobody in Knockwood’s circle seemed surprised the two became close. “The range of differences in the people that Bert was friends (with) would absolutely shock you,” said Knockwood’s buddy. “If Bert got a good sense off you, he would befriend anybody from the most down-and-out person in the gutter to people with PhDs.”
Knockwood seemed to be spending lots of time last spring hiking and enjoying nature with Pauyo.
But there were hints that all was not right.
Pauyo carried a pistol and talked about having been a boxer, said Knockwood’s friend.
“He made it clear that he was capable of committing violent acts, if necessary, but he didn’t strike me as the type to just go off like a firecracker. It was like he had a long fuse, or it had to be the right reason.”
The pair got into some sort of dispute a few weeks before the gregarious man known for his skill behind the turntables and his prowess on a skateboard was found dead in a Millbrook home on July 12, 2021.
“I actually received a phone call from Bert telling me not to allow C.J. back in my house,” said Knockwood’s friend. “When Bert told me something like that, I tended to listen. He’d never steer me wrong. For him to make a phone call like that meant that he was genuinely concerned for my safety.”
But Pauyo — who had been staying in Millbrook — showed up at the door anyway. “I told him he couldn’t come in. I just made like I was busy, and on my way out the door.”
Pauyo normally only smoked weed and drank beer, but he appeared to be strung out on something stronger that day, said Knockwood’s friend, who believes the 27-year-old was using a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine that day.
“He wasn’t acting right; he didn’t present himself as the quiet person I’d first met in March of last year, right after he came down from Montreal,” said Knockwood’s friend.
“He was jittery and anxious and seemed paranoid, but wouldn’t talk about why. Just that he wasn’t sleeping a whole lot.”
Pauyo was charged in Truro with impaired driving and refusing the breathalyzer on July 2, 2021, just 10 days before Knockwood’s body was discovered inside a Millbrook home.
Knockwood had an extensive criminal record for drug offences, including selling heroin to an undercover police officer.
“Bert was an addict,” said his friend, noting he used mostly opiates. “But the last couple of years before he passed away, he was clean and sober. He was doing great. He looked healthy again.”
That compliment comes with a caveat. “I don’t know if he was necessarily going straight in his business dealings, but I know he was clean and sober. He was doing so good. He was putting weight back on. He was at the gym all the time. I was super proud of him.”
Knockwood was shot in the back of the head inside a Glooscap Drive home, said his friend. “Bert was running when C.J. shot him. Chances are he was running for his own gun. Bert was not usually very far away from a handgun or some sort of weapon.”
Mounties wouldn’t confirm Knockwood’s cause of death.
Knockwood’s friend suspects the killing was over a botched drug deal. “There was definitely a betrayal involved. Now whether it was personal or business, I don’t know.”
Police arrested Adria Gloade of Millbrook in Quebec last August and charged her with being an accessory after the fact to Knockwood’s murder. But the Crown withdrew the charge last month, saying there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.
Gloade and Pauyo had been dating, said Knockwood’s friend. But that all changed when the pair vanished after the murder.
“He basically locked her in a room and tortured her the entire time that she was gone,” said Knockwood’s friend.
“She’s diabetic; he wouldn’t give her her insulin. He wouldn’t feed her properly. She’s on certain medications, too — he withheld those from her.”
Mounties have said Pauyo may have changed his appearance.
“He cut off his dreadlocks, he gained a bunch of weight and he started wearing eyeglasses,” said Knockwood’s friend.
Before he died, Knockwood posted photos on social media indicating he supported the Darksiders Motorcycle Club out of Dartmouth.
“He just had a few friends amongst members,” said his buddy. “In the 20 years that I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him drive a motorbike.”
Knockwood’s friend wonders if Pauyo is still alive.
“If the cops haven’t found him by now, I would have my doubts. He (Knockwood) was very well-known and very well-respected in a lot of circles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody hadn’t taken it upon themselves to just quietly take care of the problem. There are some folks out there that don’t believe that the justice system serves any real justice.”
Knockwood ran afoul of that system many times.
On Jan. 15, 2021, the Parole Board of Canada revoked his statutory release from prison for walking away from a halfway house in another province.
Authorities issued a warrant for Knockwood’s arrest in August of 2019 after he “absconded from the halfway house while on statutory release,” said his final parole decision, which notes that happened after just two days at the facility.
“You remained at large until July 26, 2020, when you were arrested at the scene of a minor car accident in which you were a passenger. This occurred in a different province. Police were furnished a false name and an obstruction charge is anticipated.”
Knockwood had been doing time for robbery. But he also had convictions for armed robbery, theft under $5,000, drug trafficking and assault causing bodily harm.
“With respect to trafficking, you sold heroin to a police officer,” said the parole board. “The amounts were relatively minor, and the offences were committed to supply your own addiction.”
Used syringe during robbery
Crimes where he threatened people troubled the parole board. Knockwood’s parole decision pointed out that he had pulled out a syringe during a music store robbery in 2017.
“In December 2017, you robbed two music stores of electronic equipment. During one instance, employees attempted to stop you but let you go when you pulled out a syringe. “You fled, and police arrested you on the street realizing you were wanted under three prior warrants.”
Police found syringes and stolen property at his home.
At your residence, syringes and the like were seized along with considerable stolen goods,” said Knockwood’s parole decision.
‘A reckless, impulsive and aggressive side’
Robbery convictions in 2008 netted Knockwood federal time.
“These involved entering a private home while armed and committing thefts and an assault. Substance abuse and your overall lifestyle was central to your behaviour at the time. Not unlike the index offences, there exists a reckless, impulsive and aggressive side to your personality.”
Knockwood even got in trouble behind bars, said the parole board. “Found to have a shank on one occasion, debt sheets and possible use of brew stand out.”
The board took Knockwood’s Indigenous history into account.
“Raised by hard working family in a Mi’kmaq community, the board acknowledges that at least one parent, as well as some siblings, experienced residential schools. The parent in question (Bert’s late father Douglas Knockwood) suffered abuse and would develop problems with alcohol and its predictable results,” said the parole board. “It is clear from a review of file information and the board’s own understanding of government policies intended to all but destroy rich Indigenous cultures that your family and home community were negatively impacted. By extension, you were also scared and developed a number of maladaptive coping mechanisms as a result. Abusive experiences only fortified those mechanisms. Certain behaviours that contributed to run-ins with authorities became normalized.”
Breaking the “addictions cycle and its link to crime is, and has been, difficult,” said Knockwood’s parole decision.
“The board is mindful that the parent in question would become an addictions counsellor, clearly demonstrating the resolve necessary to overcome his experiences. Your family has been able to teach you your language and practised traditional culture.”
Knockwood told the parole board that he had been clean from drugs for three years and alcohol for a decade.
“The decision to go at large was triggered by your interpretation of a meeting with your parole officer that a travel permit to your home province would not be forthcoming for months. On the day you left, (Correctional Service Canada) considered that you were collaborating with another offender. Once your curfew was missed, phone calls were not returned and repeated efforts proved futile. You self-report taking a bus to your home province, leaving a previous relationship and starting another. Keeping your at large status to yourself, you were able to assimilate into your home community where you had access to a home left to you by family.”
On the lam for nearly a year
Knockwood was able to lay low for 11 months before authorities caught up to him.
But he eventually ended up back in jail as the parole board thought he presented “an undue risk to society.”
When he eventually got out of prison again, Knockwood requested to be released to his home community, citing his “desire to be around (his) culture and traditions, and to connect with pro-social people, mentors and elders,” said the decision.
The board ordered him to stay away from alcohol, drugs and other criminals. “These three considerations have long formed a central piece of your offence cycle, one that has seen people get hurt.”
‘That was all taken’
Many of Knockwood’s family members believed he had turned his life around before he was killed, even getting engaged to his girlfriend, Claire Sylliboy, his sister-in-law, Lorie Morris said in an interview last Friday, which would have been Bert’s 43rd birthday.
“It’s sucky,” Morris said. “I feel really badly for his partner and her children because he found happiness. That was all taken.”
Knockwood lived with the Morris family in Burlington, Ont. for a few months about two decades back.
“He was great with our daughter, Tiffany, when she was little,” Morris said. “We loved having him. It was a lot of fun.”
Bert was “honest, funny, and very, very stubborn. He had a quick wit and was very talented,” said Lorie Morris.
In recent years, Knockwood got deeply into physical fitness.
“I’d never seen him look so happy,” Morris said. “He had a light in his eyes.”
His death is “a terrible tragedy” for the family, she said.
“All that potential was just taken away,” Morris said.
She hopes police catch Knockwood’s killer. “I’m praying that justice will come for Bert … and that, finally, the ones who are responsible for Bert’s killing, who murdered him, are going to be held accountable for it,” Morris said. “Because he deserves that.”