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Man convicted in morphine-overdose death

May be first 'social trafficking' conviction in Manitoba

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A Winnipeg man has been convicted in connection with the morphine-overdose killing of Wendy Henry.

Fifteen months after closing arguments were presented in his unusual case, Curtis Haas, 53, returned to court this morning to learn he was being convicted on charges of manslaughter, drug-trafficking and criminal negligence causing death.

It's believed to be the first such "social trafficking" conviction of its kind in Manitoba.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Gerald Chartier found Haas's unlawful act of trafficking "street morphine" pills to Henry, 20, at his apartment on Oct. 27, 2007 was directly tied to her death in hospital about two days later.

"His actions contributed substantially to her death," said Chartier. "Mr. Haas knew the drugs were dangerous."

Providing Henry with up to 16 morphine tablets was an act Haas should have known could kill her, the judge said.

An autopsy found Henry died of an overdose, and she had a dangerous 1,035 nanograms of morphine in every millilitre of her blood.

Henry and another woman who lived in the same apartment block as Haas both overdosed within 24 hours of each other.

The other woman survived. Chartier found Haas was aware the other woman went to hospital for treatment, and didn't act to ensure Henry got help as well.

He had also taken the drug in the past and found it "worked too much," so he flushed his supply, said Chartier.

"Mr. Haas's conduct caused Ms. Henry's death," said Chartier.

Haas originally told police Henry wanted the morphine from him to "get high."

He later changed his story, claiming she needed it to deal with chronic pain. He also told a different version to a security guard in his building, claiming Henry had "gotten into" his stash.

Haas denied any wrongdoing. It was Haas who called 911 and tried to revive Henry when he discovered she wasn't breathing. His lawyer argued Henry was responsible for her own demise because she willingly ingested the pills.

"Once a person has that in their hands, they have a choice of what they are going to do with it," Darren Sawchuk told Queen's Bench Justice Gerald Chartier in his closing argument.

Sawchuk said there was no evidence Haas even knew how much morphine Henry consumed, and she may have snuck some of the pills from his stash without his knowledge.

After the convictions were pronounced, the Crown moved to revoke Haas's bail and see him taken into custody. A revocation hearing will be held later this month.

Haas has no criminal record, suffers with health issues and hasn't breached any of his conditions.

Henry lived with her father and two younger siblings. She filled her days caring for her two-year-old daughter, working with disabled children for the Winnipeg School Division, and taking sign-language classes.

 

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

-- with Free Press files

History

Updated on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 12:03 PM CDT: Adds photo

1:09 PM: Corrects name of Court of Queen's Bench Justice Gerald Chartier

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