Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Charge laid in St. Vital slaying

Argument erupted while pair drinking at victim's apartment

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The mystery of what happened to a Winnipeg homicide victim's car became a major focus for police investigators and ultimately led to an arrest.

A day after Keith George McFee's station wagon was found abandoned in the Centennial neighbourhood, a mother of three with ties to the city's sex trade was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in McFee's death, police said Tuesday.

McFee, 69, was found dead Friday afternoon inside his suite at a Fernwood Avenue apartment block.

Police initially said his death was suspicious due to injuries in his upper body. They later confirmed it as a homicide.

McFee, a well-liked former caretaker of the apartment block, hadn't been heard or seen since after Boxing Day, causing friends and neighbours to be concerned.

Firefighters were sent to check on his well-being and they notified police.

Investigators learned his car was missing from its parking spot and alerted patrol officers to be on the lookout for it.

It was located Sunday near Laura Street and Logan Avenue.

The discovery of the 2007 Ford Freestyle and further witness information drove the investigation toward a suspect, Const. Jason Michalyshen said.

Leanne May Henderson, 31, was arrested Monday in the 500 block of William Avenue.

In addition to the murder allegation, she's charged with theft over $5,000.

Police and court records confirm Henderson had ties to the sex trade and was on probation stemming from a prostitution-related arrest, also on William Avenue, in August 2012.

Months before that, she was listed as a missing person and police said they were concerned for her well-being.

Police said McFee and Henderson were together and drinking at his suite between Dec. 26 and 27.

It's alleged an argument escalated and Henderson used a weapon to kill McFee before fleeing in his car.

Police couldn't elaborate on whether the attack was provoked.

"That's a little unclear for me at this point," said Michalyshen.

"Judgment between the two may have been somewhat impaired (by alcohol)," he added.

Police also declined to say what weapon was used to assault McFee.

Henderson recently got out of jail after admitting Dec. 6 to violating her probation by not reporting to corrections officials.

She landed in custody several times for short periods during 2013 -- largely for breaches of bail and probation orders -- and faced four separate sentencing judges during the year.

Henderson was sentenced to probation Feb. 20 after she admitted to offering sexual services for $40 to an undercover vice officer, court heard.

As part of the two-year probation order, Henderson was barred from going near sections of the West End and North End where sex-trade workers are known to frequent.

By late August, she saw the geographic restrictions on her movements removed with consent of Crown prosecutors, as it was impossible for her not to violate them.

"I have to hook because I have no food and nowhere to live," she told police during a June 24 arrest.

A month earlier, Henderson had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was said to be very ill and in need of treatment.

By December the cancer was in remission, court heard.

Plagued by cocaine addiction, Henderson suffered abuse at the hands of a stepfather at age 10, defence lawyer Shannon McNichol said.

She turned to drugs and alcohol after her mother kicked her out when she told her about the abuse.

Over the years, Henderson earned a post-secondary education in social work from Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ont., court was told.

Henderson is presumed innocent. The murder case returns to court Jan. 17.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 B1

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