Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alleged killer appeared sober and calm, trial hears

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Hours before they were viciously slain in a West End apartment, Jessie Henderson and Dennis Baptiste partied and drank together — both there and at a party inside a theme suite at a downtown hotel.

But their alleged killer, who was with the young men at both locations, appeared sober and calm throughout, a Winnipeg jury heard Wednesday.

"He was just on his cellphone most of the time," Tara Lee Tukundum told court as she was called to testify at Kenneth Roulette’s first degree-murder trial.

Tukundum is the sister of Baptise’s common-law wife, Krystal Merrick.

Baptiste and Henderson, both 23 and members of the Mad Cowz street gang, were found brutally killed inside 729 Maryland St. on the morning of Jan. 31, 2009, mere hours after Tukundum and Merrick last saw them at the McDermot Avenue hotel.

The Maryland Street apartment was where Merrick and Baptiste lived with their two young children. On weekends, Merrick would take the kids to her family’s reserve community, leaving Baptiste in the city.

The Crown alleges a dispute between the victims and Roulette, who went by the gang monikers "Biggs" or "Junior," led to a violent and fatal confrontation.

Tukundum and Merrick separately testified they arrived at the West End multiplex hours before the men were killed and saw them and Roulette inside. The women had come to the city because Merrick was concerned about Baptiste hosting a drinking party.

Baptiste and Henderson — whom Tukundum only knew by his gang name, "Blinky" — were drinking but Roulette was not, she said. He sat quietly talking with a friend who had come in with the women from the reserve, she said.

Soon after, all six went to a party at a downtown hotel suite where cocaine was being consumed and young female sex-trade workers were in attendance. It was a contact of Henderson’s — a person named "Chippy" — who invited them, said Merrick.

The atmosphere at the party was sinister, as many of the men there were acting "gangster tough," said Tukundum. "I didn’t feel safe," she said.

Roulette, however, was chatting on his cellphone. "He wasn’t drinking… he didn’t have a drink," said Tukundum. The women eventually left the party, with Baptiste rebuffing Merrick’s efforts to get him to leave with her.

In the truck on the way back to 729 Maryland St., Baptiste called Merrick at 4:21 a.m. "Baby, why you doing this?" he reportedly asked her. "I said, 'what?,’ and he hung up," Merrick testified.

He called again momentarily. "He was swearing at somebody else, ‘why are you doing that?’ " Merrick said. "He said it twice."

It was the last time she would hear his voice.

The women returned to the apartment to allow Merrick to gather up some remaining beer so Baptiste couldn’t get at it, both women said.

At that time, there was no signs of a struggle in the apartment and a leased 52-inch TV that had just been delivered the day before remained in the suite, said Merrick. They then drove back to the reserve.

When police arrived at around 10:25 a.m., the apartment was a bloodied mess, the entranceway door was completely off its hinges and the television was gone. The brutally assaulted bodies of Baptiste and Henderson were found in different areas of the residence and what appears to be an intentionally set fire smouldered on the stove.

The Crown’s final witness on Wednesday was Susan Collins, a recovering cocaine addict who at the time of the homicides was friends with Roulette and dating and dealing drugs with a man named Philip Jason "Jay" Asham.

Collins told court they were out shopping at Walmart at around 3 a.m. when Roulette called looking for Asham. She didn’t hear the contents of the call. After heading home, she said she and Asham retired to a bedroom to use cocaine when there was knocking at the door and windows of the North End home they shared. Collins returns to the witness stand Thursday morning.

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