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Two charged in disposal of slaying victim's body

Winnipeg police have charged two gang associates with helping dispose of a slaying victim's body more than seven years ago.

Steven Pelletier, 29, vanished without a trace in October 2006, leaving a trail of mystery behind for concerned family members and friends.

Last month, police arrested Darrell Lavallee and charged him with second-degree murder for the "cold-case" attack. Sources told the Free Press Lavallee is a senior leader of the Indian Posse street gang in Winnipeg.

Police said at the time they believe Pelletier was lured into a home in the 500 block of Magnus Avenue, beaten and shot. His body was then removed from the home and "dumped outside city limits" by several men.

Police announced two arrests Tuesday. Tomas Bell Francey, 36, and Ronald Allan Sobotkiewicz, 50, are charged with accessory after the fact to murder. Police allege they assisted Lavallee in getting rid of the body.

No other information has been released. However, more arrests are expected as police say other gang "associates" were also involved.

Pelletier's family reported him missing in November 2006 and a public release was issued shortly after. Police said the investigation shifted from the missing persons unit to the homicide unit in about 2010.

Police wouldn't reveal what led them to the arrests in the case. Sources said gang-related crimes typically crack when someone on the street decides to co-operate with investigators -- often for a price and protection -- and become a key informant and witness.


Deadly fire set in multiple

locations: investigator

A deadly Winnipeg bathhouse fire began in two separate locations and was definitely no accident, a jury heard Tuesday.

Forensic analysts who carefully combed through the rubble of the Aquarius Men's Bathhouse on Notre Dame Avenue were able to determine arson as the cause of the October 2009 fire that killed two patrons.

Justin Rosdobutko, 29, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of manslaughter.

The lead fire investigator, Kevin Ross, told jurors one large fire was set in a couch while a secondary blaze began in a bed. Both were triggered by "direct flame contact" and led to extensive flame and smoke damage in the building.

"I surmised either a magazine or a towel was ignited," Ross testified. He said the fact there were two different points of origin made it clear this was a deliberate act.

"Regularly, in set fires there are multiple fires. (The accused) don't just set one but one or two or many. They're just determined to burn what they want to burn, make sure it's burning well," said Ross.

Jurors have already heard how Rosdobutko was visiting the facility that evening and told a friend they should "burn the bathhouse down."

Steven Yablonski, 23, and Robert Gene Clark, 62, died of smoke inhalation. Yablonski was a local entertainer and Clark was from Saskatchewan.

There were no witnesses to either fire being set. DNA testing on a cigarette butt found in the room where the bed was lit on fire contained a "mixed profile" of two people, jurors were told. Rosdobutko's DNA was not in the profile, but his friend's was.

The trial continues.


Businessman fined for selling bogus NHL gear

A Winnipeg small businessman has paid a steep price after RCMP caught him selling counterfeit NHL team merchandise.

But, a Manitoba judge heard this week, Michael Stoel's copyright-infringement case likely had far more to do with disreputable online suppliers than a wilful intent to peddle illegitimate pro-hockey wares.

Stoel, 52, who owns Winnipeg's two Pylon Pop Culture stores, pleaded guilty Monday to breaching the federal Copyright Act and was fined $4,000.

RCMP officers probing sales of counterfeit goods in March 2012 found the stores were selling copyright-infringing belt buckles and other NHL team-branded goods -- including a clock featuring the new logo of the Winnipeg Jets.

The manner in which the goods were packaged for sale was "miles away" from how the NHL brands and markets its products, said Crown attorney Victoria Cornick.

Lawyers for the league indicated its official products have the NHL logo "all over" their packaging as part of their branding strategy, said Cornick.

RCMP seized about 40 per cent of the merchandise at Stoel's stores, court heard. While some items were returned, he agreed to forfeit the rest that police carted off. It was stock worth in the range of $17,000 to $25,000, provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson heard.

He also has to pay legal fees.

"That's quite a big hit for a retailer at the scale of Pop Pylon and Mr. Stoel," Cornick said.

The whole ordeal has been a massive learning experience for Stoel, said defence lawyer Jason Kendall.

The case is a cautionary tale about the perils of ordering from Internet-based suppliers, the lawyer suggested.

"It's common now to get these types of supplies from these online warehousing entities, as a lot of them are licensed," said Kendall. "But what we came to realize (is) that even within what could be a licensed distributorship, there's a bit of a virus there because wares that aren't necessarily made by that proper manufacturer are making their way in."


-- Mike McIntyre / James Turner

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2014 B3

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