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Roulette found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder

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A Winnipeg jury deliberated for less than five hours Thursday before convicting Kenneth Roulette of two counts of murder in connection with the grisly deaths of two city street gang members.

"By anyone's standards, these murders were vicious and brutal," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar told an expressionless Roulette before handing him a mandatory life sentence without a chance at parole eligibility for 25 years.

Roulette has been in custody since March 2010 awaiting his day in court, charged with the first-degree murders of Jessie Henderson and Dennis Baptiste inside a suite at 729 Maryland St. on Jan. 31, 2009.

The two 23-year-old Mad Cowz members suffered multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma in what prosecutors contended was a planned act orchestrated by Roulette for money.

"Dennis was my partner, the father of my children and he did not deserve to have his life cruelly taken away," Baptiste's common-law wife, Krystal Merrick, said in a victim impact statement read to the court by Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson. "Our lives will never be the same."

Henderson was just weeks away from becoming a dad, his estranged girlfriend said in her statement. "I had to watch him get buried on my due date," she wrote. "I am a single mom because of (Roulette's) actions," she said, adding Henderson and Baptiste themselves were "just kids."

Virtually all members of the six-man, six-woman jury who decided the facts of the grim case remained to see Roulette sentenced, his fate confirmed just 15 minutes after each juror was polled to show their decision about his guilt was unanimous.

The first-degree verdict suggests jurors found credible the testimony given by a key Crown witness — evidence which came with warnings from Dewar they should view it with caution.

A key development in the 2 1/2 week-long trial was Dewar's decision — made in the absence of the jury — to allow them to hear testimony given at a preliminary hearing by Russell Glow, who died of natural causes earlier this year.

Glow, a crack addict with a criminal past, came forward to police and implicated Roulette in the murders in February 2010. In exchange, he was granted immunity from prosecution on unrelated gun and drug charges and put into witness protection. In his time in state protection, he was paid a small per-diem and given an allowance for his housing costs.

Glow testified Roulette turned up at his Sherbrook Street home on the morning of the murders splattered with blood. He enlisted Glow to help him sell a large-screen television set which police found was missing from the crime scene.

Also asked to help go fetch some electronics, Glow said he walked the short distance with Roulette back to 729 Maryland and heard Roulette confess to the murders as part of a contract killing.

Upon seeing Baptiste's body slumped in a pool of blood at the entranceway to the suite, Glow said he bolted, not wanting anything to do with the homicides. At the time he came forward, he was in jail. The deal he struck saw him released.

Forensic evidence of Roulette's DNA being in the apartment — found on hairs in a spot of Baptiste's blood — was also tendered by the prosecution.

Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky had attacked Glow's testimony, saying he sold his story to gain benefits and that Glow admitted under oath to being a liar, cheat and criminal of convenience. "Would you buy a car from Russell Glow?," he asked jurors in his closing address.

Roulette declined to speak when offered the opportunity. He won't become eligible for parole until March 13, 2035.


james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 8:23 PM CDT: Full write-through with extensive details.

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