Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'I won't be the same knowing you're gone'

Victim's 13-year-old girlfriend sets up memorial

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A teddy bear and a card bearing the words "I'll love you always" marked the spot yesterday where John William Chubb, 15, was beaten to death with a baseball bat Saturday morning.

The makeshift memorial was placed by Chubb's girlfriend, Jessica Houle, 13, who said the slaying took the most important person in her life.

"I won't be the same knowing you're gone and I'm still here," Houle wrote in her tender goodbye letter.

The words of love contrast with Chubb's brutal death, a death police believe is linked to several crack cocaine and "sniff" party houses in the area surrounding the West End Cultural Centre.

Police yesterday stressed that the attack that killed Chubb and injured his brother and a 25-year-old family friend is not linked to events at the West End Cultural Centre, but likely with so-called "party houses" in the neighbourhood.

Police spokesman Const. Bob Johnson said besides arresting a suspect in Chubb's killing, police are now trying to identify the houses and close them.

Chubb suffered serious head injuries after he was struck with a bat in the lane behind the West End Cultural Centre shortly after 1 a.m. He was rushed to Children's Hospital, but was later taken off life support. His death was the ninth homicide in Winnipeg in 2003.

Chubb's 13-year-old brother was injured in the arm and a 25-year-old man was treated for a head injury and released .

John Chubb lived in a foster home with his brother. Funeral arrangements were still being made yesterday.

Police believe the attack followed a dispute at a nearby property where crack cocaine is sold and used. Other houses in the area are used by solvent abusers to buy and use "sniff."

Police have said the attack on Chubb was not random and not gang-related.

Houle said Chubb was not involved with gangs or drugs, but she couldn't explain why he was in the area at such a late hour.

She said they had known each other for about three years.

Asked why she thought Chubb was attacked, she replied: "It's just people who hate on people."

Rev. Harry Lehotsky, who runs a ministry and housing renewal group in the area, said the party houses have long been a problem in the area.

Lehotsky said most of the drug houses are along Furby and Sherbrook streets near the West End Cultural Centre.

"People just get their partying out of hand," he said.

He also said neighbours report that prostitutes line up during the early morning to buy crack cocaine from one house, while young people gather at a garage at another property. Solvent abusers use a house on Sherbrook Street.

Police say community police officers, working out of the Broadway Police Service Centre, and investigators with the province's Public Safety Investigation Unit, are trying to pinpoint the houses to shut them.

Lehotsky said the problem is that the locations move -- as soon as one house is closed, another opens. For instance, drug pushers and users break in to a boarded-up houses and their customers soon find them. Drug and solvent pushers also work the street, selling out of backpacks.

Johnson also said Chubb's death is not related to the May 23 assault on a member of a Japanese rock band outside the Cultural Centre. He was hit by a billiard ball wrapped in a sock and shot near the eye with a pellet gun as he stepped outside the centre to make a call on his cell phone.

The recent spate of violence has led several groups to cancel planned shows at the cultural centre, said Nan Colledge, the centre's general manager.

As well, several volunteers have quit while other staff workers are stressed, Colledge said.

The centre hired security guards last November to patrol the area after cars were repeatedly broken into, she added.

"We've done what we can for our patrons," she said. "It's really up to someone else to deal with all the issues in that area."

The area was also hit by violence last year, when two American servicemen were beaten and shot on March 16, 2002, after they tried to chase down a purse thief outside the 7-Eleven convenience store at 627 Ellice Ave. The pair were met by several armed youths in a back lane of McGee Street.

The night before, James Brian Fero, 35, was stabbed to death during what police believe was a robbery in front of an apartment block at 615 Sherbrook St., near Sargent Avenue.

Police made arrests in both cases.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

dave.o'brien@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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