A court hearing is underway for a Winnipeg man accused of randomly killing a senior and stuffing her body in the trunk of her stolen car.
Anthony Joseph Brine, 27, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder for the February 2011 attack on 73-year-old Elizabeth Lafantaisie. He appeared in court Monday for the start of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
A court-ordered publication ban prevents specific details and evidence in the hearing from being published.
Justice sources previously told the Free Press the slaying was being viewed as a possible carjacking that ended in her death. Brine was arrested five days after police found Lafantaisie's abandoned 2006 Grand Prix with her body wrapped inside the trunk. An autopsy revealed she had been strangled.
First-degree murder implies the killing was planned or premeditated, but it can also be used in cases where a person is killed in the course of a confinement and/or robbery. A conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
Police said the break in the case came from forensic evidence. Investigators from the WPS homicide unit and missing persons unit had canvassed more than 1,000 suites in connection with the death. Officers also reviewed numerous surveillance tapes from various businesses.
"As a police service and as a city... it's more than concerning on how this incident unfolded," police Const. Natalie Aitken said at the time. She said what was particularly disturbing was the "violent" and "random nature" of the death.
Lafantaisie was last seen Feb. 18 in the Royalwood area of the city, where family said she'd been cleaning a home. Police had previously said belongings like Lafantaisie's purse led officers on a trail for the missing woman. Her sister told the Free Press the purse had been stripped of money when it was found.
Brine is no stranger to the justice system, according to court documents obtained by the Free Press.
He was convicted in May 2005 of four counts of theft under $5,000, five counts of theft over $5,000 and two court breaches. In June 2007, he was convicted again of five counts of theft under $5,000, escaping lawful custody, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, possession of property obtained by crime (the motor vehicle), break, enter and theft and theft over $5,000. He also was convicted of three breaches of court orders. Sources say the charges involved stolen vehicles.
By April 2009, Brine was convicted again of two counts of possession of property obtained by crime. Police said Brine is also facing two counts of possession of goods obtained by crime, three counts of assault causing bodily harm and one count of assault involving two outstanding arrest warrants. Those incidents apparently happened in late 2010 and were the first time Brine has been charged with any crimes of violence. He was wanted on those incidents at the time of the homicide.
Brine was previously put into the Teen Challenge program in 2006 as part of his bail conditions at the time. His father posted a $5,000 surety and the young man landed a job at a local food supplier. Teen Challenge deals with young people who are battling addictions to drugs and alcohol. Champagne said the treatment was going well until Brine suddenly left the facility.
Brine has also been sued on two previous occasions by Manitoba Public Insurance for a total of nearly $60,000 relating to damage to stolen vehicles, according to court records.