Two city gang associates are found beaten and brutally stabbed to death in different parts of a small Maryland Street apartment in the dead of a Winnipeg winter.
On top of that, there was a mysterious stove fire leaving a microwave in scorched ruin, a seemingly stolen big-screen TV, a bloody kitchen knife with no fingerprints to be found and a stained winter jacket tossed in the trash not far from a trail of blood in the snow.
These are just some of the complex crime scene elements Winnipeg police were confronted with on the morning of Jan. 31, 2009, as they were called to investigate the deaths of Mad Cowz street gang associates Jesse Henderson and Dennis Baptiste, both 23.
And now, a jury of six men and six women are being asked to decide whether Kenneth Roulette, 28, is the man responsible for the deaths, as the Crown and police allege he is.
Roulette has pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent of two counts of first-degree murder.
His trial got underway Monday in Court of Queen’s Bench.
Roulette and the two victims — they were all friends — had been out socializing the night before, went back to a suite at 729 Maryland St. and got into an argument that turned deadly around 5:30 a.m., Crown attorney Mike Desautels alleged in his opening statement.
The men were beaten and stabbed and then the suspect tried to torch the suite by setting a fire on the stove and fleeing, Desautels said. The fire burned itself out but scorched cupboards, a microwave and the side of the refrigerator.
Desautels said two DNA experts will be called to explain forensic evidence seized from a jacket found in a garbage can near the apartment building as well as a spot of Baptiste’s blood found in the suite that allegedly contained three of Roulette’s hairs. A beer can with his fingerprint on it was also found in the kitchen.
The trial’s first witness was Winnipeg police forensic identification Sgt. Ralph Lucas, who presented 36 photos of the complex and grisly crime scene to the jury.
Henderson was found dead on the living room rug in the second-floor suite and Baptiste at the foot of some stairs at its sole ground-floor entranceway, court heard.
One of the photos depicts a television stand pulled away from the living room wall with no TV on it.
Another shows a cable cord with blood smeared toward the end of where it might attach to the TV that’s not there.
Lucas also produced a leasing agreement dated just days before the killings for a 52-inch flat-screen TV.
Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky challenged Lucas in cross-examination over whether any of the physical evidence seized showed when the killings took place or who may have attacked whom or when. Lucas conceded he couldn’t tell from the physical evidence which victim was attacked first.
As well, there was nothing linking Roulette to a bloody knife found on a table within the suite, Lucas testified.
A hair found in Henderson’s hand during his autopsy was found to not be Roulette’s, court heard.
The trial continues today.