Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Acquitted slaying suspect now wanted for stabbings

Had been cleared in city teen's stabbing death

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A young Winnipeg man who was cleared just weeks ago of a murder charge in the stabbing death of a city teen is now a suspect in a series of stabbings on Main Street.

Police identified Steven Raymond Johnston, 20, Wednesday as a person they're seeking in connection with an outbreak of violence that saw men aged 25, 26 and 29 knifed and left with upper-body wounds.

The three victims knew each other and were treated in hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

It appears Johnston and some men got in a verbal dispute inside a 7-Eleven store in the 1300 block of Main Street, which then spilled outside and turned violent, police say.

A 26-year-old victim made his way to Machray Avenue and Charles Street where police found him injured.

The incident doesn't appear to be motivated by gang retribution or robbery, police said.

Johnston was freed from jail Jan. 20 after being acquitted of second-degree murder for the stabbing death of Clarky Stevenson, 15, early on Sept. 10, 2011.

The Crown had alleged Johnston sprang up from behind and attacked Stevenson in an early-morning, gang-related confrontation sparked by Stevenson near Boyd Avenue and Aikins Street.

Justice Colleen Suche took the case from the hands of a trial jury after ruling for the defence no evidence was presented that Johnston had a knife or got his hands on one to fatally stab Stevenson.

An eyewitness said Stevenson stopped some of Johnson's friends in the street while shouting gang slogans and indicated he had a gun. After a few moments of back-and-forth shouting, the witness said he saw Johnston come up from behind, put Stevenson in a headlock and deliver a series of "uppercuts" the Crown alleged were actually stabs, not punches.

As the two grappled against a fence, a youth co-accused came up with a knife and slashed at Stevenson, the witness said. At no time did the witness see a knife in Johnston's hands.

Suche ruled there was some evidence to support a charge of assault. The Crown elected not to proceed on the assault charge and the case collapsed. The co-accused was due to go on trial this month but the hearing was delayed.

Johnston spent 28 months behind bars awaiting trial. Police said Wednesday they're also seeking to locate an 18-year-old woman -- a friend of Johnston's -- for breaching probation.

Anyone with information about locating Johnston is asked to contact investigators at (204)986-2848 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 3, 2014 A7


Updated on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 10:04 AM CDT: Clarified headline.

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