A Winnipeg man has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison after his girlfriend plunged to her death from the 11th-floor balcony of a downtown apartment.
Mario Trunzo pleaded guilty to manslaughter last week just as his trial was set to begin on a more serious charge of second-degree murder. The Crown agreed to the reduced plea, citing major problems with their case including conflicting witness statements about what happened.
Alinda Lahteenmaki, 23, died instantly during the January 2009 fall at 375 Assiniboine Ave. Trunzo initially claimed he had nothing to do with her death and suggested she committed suicide.
He has now admitted to shoving Lahteenmaki during a heated argument which ended with her perched on the ledge threatening to jump. Trunzo claims he tried to pull her back over but she slipped from his grasp.
Trunzo and Lahteenmaki were severely intoxicated at the time from alcohol, crack cocaine and other drugs, court was told.
"There’s no question what occurred here was needless and particularly devastating to this young woman’s family," Queen’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey said Monday. She accepted the joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers which calls for Trunzo to serve two more years behind bars, in addition to 27 months of time already served which was given double time credit of 54 months.
McKelvey said it’s clear the Crown faced a big risk had they not struck a deal with Trunzo and opted to bring the case to trial. Lahteenmaki’s family expressed disappointment with the plea bargain and made a series of emotional victim impact statements in court.
"I will never see her beautiful smile, her laughing eyes. The loss is with the family every day," the victim’s mother said Monday.
At a previous bail hearing, the Crown presented a different picture of the case.
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.
However, other witnesses told a 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.
Lahteenmaki had been battling depression and suicidal thoughts which included a stint at a mental health facility one week before her death, court was told.