Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Guilty plea in apartment death

Man pushed girlfriend from 11th-floor balcony

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Mario Trunzo repeatedly claimed he had nothing to do with the death of his girlfriend, insisting she jumped from the 11th-floor balcony of a downtown apartment.

But just as his trial was set to begin, Trunzo abruptly changed his story and admitted the truth: Alinda Lahteenmaki was the victim of a homicide, not a suicide.

Trunzo, 49, struck a deal on Tuesday to plead guilty to manslaughter, which implies knocking the 23-year-old woman off the ledge wasn't a deliberate act. In exchange, the Crown agreed to drop a more serious charge of second-degree murder and the mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years that comes with it.

Trunzo will be sentenced Monday. He has been in custody since his January 2009 arrest. No facts of the case were read into the record on Tuesday and the Crown didn't provide any explanation for accepting a reduced plea. However, the Free Press has obtained a transcript of a bail hearing from two years ago in which the evidence was discussed in detail.

Lahteenmaki died instantly after she fell from a Manitoba Housing apartment block at 375 Assiniboine Ave. There was no dispute Trunzo and Lahteenmaki had spent the evening drinking and doing drugs with several other friends, court was told. It is also conceded the pair began arguing. However, what happened next was very much in dispute.

A man who was partying in the suite gave a statement to police claiming Trunzo grabbed Lahteenmaki and forced her towards the open window. He allegedly lifted her off the ground and dangled her feet out the window.

"She was half in and half out and he says, 'You want to die b h, go ahead and die.' She kept saying 'no, no' and I didn't see her head anymore," the witness claimed. He said Trunzo eventually started yelling for help, only to let Lahteenmaki slip from his grasp.

Another woman who was at the gathering claimed Lahteenmaki was screaming for help, pleading with Trunzo to "Don't let go" in the seconds before she fell.

"The facts as alleged by the Crown are horrific," Queen's Bench Justice Brenda Keyser said at the time in her decision to deny bail.

Trunzo told a much different story, claiming Lahteenmaki had made comments earlier in the night about killing herself by jumping out the window and even wrote a suicide note that was seized by police. His lawyer also attacked the witnesses who spoke with police, saying they were intoxicated and gave statements that changed over time.

Keyser admitted there were potential problems with the witnesses but said it wasn't her job to decide guilt or innocence. Instead, she said, there was a "serious risk of re-involvement" in criminal activity if Trunzo was released. She cited a history of drug and alcohol issues.

Family members previously told the Free Press Lahteenmaki called her grandmother two days before her death, crying and asking to come home because she wanted to get away from her "controlling" boyfriend.

"She said, 'Grandma, forgive me for what I did,' " said Alice Moar, Lahteenmaki's grandmother, who lives in Thunder Bay. "She said, 'It's no good where I am.' "

Lahteenmaki was apologizing for using crack cocaine, said her grandmother.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2012 A7

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