Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Jury finds man guilty in boy's beating death

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A Winnipeg jury has found a home invasion victim guilty Monday of manslaughter for beating a 12-year-old intruder to death with a baseball bat.

Tennessee Weedmark doesn’t deny killing Albert Goosehead but claims his violent actions were legally justified. Weedmark, 21, plead not guilty on the grounds he acted in self-defence.

Jurors began weighing the evidence Monday afternoon following a two-week trial and returned with a verdict this evening.

Goosehead died of blunt-force trauma after a June 2009 beating on Bloodvein First Nation, a community of 1,060 about 210 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The circumstances surrounding the killing amount to a "love triangle" of sorts, court was told.

Weedmark, then 18, had started dating a young woman in Bloodvein after a previous relationship with her sister, who was friends with Goosehead. The ex-girlfriend was jealous her sister was dating Weedmark and claimed he physically assaulted her. She told Goosehead and others about the alleged abuse, prompting Goosehead to grab a baseball bat and go with several friends to the home where Weedmark was staying.

One of those friends told jurors Goosehead smashed his way into the home in the middle of the night and a confrontation occurred between the two. Weedmark’s girlfriend, who was pregnant, was struck with the bat. A second brawl erupted between the two sisters. At some point, Weedmark got hold of the bat and struck Goosehead three times in the head, knocking him to the ground and causing the fatal injury.

"If he didn’t act, what was going to happen next? He didn’t know, but he wasn’t going to take the chance and find out," defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk said in his final pitch to the jury Friday.

He said Goosehead was clearly "out of control" and high on marijuana at the time. And Sawchuk told jurors not to be fooled by the tender age and slight size of the victim, saying there are plenty of young people in Manitoba who commit violent crimes such as robbery, home invasion and even murder.

"Please think of the entirety of the background," Sawchuk said. After "swinging in the dark" and connecting with Goosehead, Weedmark tried to revive him but it was too late. He moved the boy’s body inside the home and returned to his own residence, where he was arrested hours later.

Sawchuk said moving the body inside was done "out of respect" for Goosehead because there were wild dogs roaming the community. He denied Weedmark was trying to duck responsibility, noting he later gave a statement to police admitting what happened.

The Crown argued Weedmark’s actions were overkill and not legally justified. Sawchuk said his client regrets not handling the confrontation another way, such as fleeing with his girlfriend.

"But that’s not what men do. He would have been morally judged to be a coward," Sawchuk said.

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