Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ex-gang member testifies at murder trial

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Philip Asham readily admits he's a former high-ranking gang member and drug dealer who has led a life of crime.

He told a Winnipeg court Thursday he received no benefit for coming forward to homicide investigators, directly implicating a friend in the vicious double homicide of two young gang associates and becoming a key witness for the Crown in the process.

"This is something I never did," Asham, 38, testified, soon after uttering the word "snitch."

"I was doing it hopefully to get out of jail... it didn't weigh in my favour all that much," Asham said.

Asham's testimony became the first substantial -- and controversial -- evidence put before the six-man, six-woman jury the Crown says links Kenneth Toby Roulette, 28, to the deaths of Mad Cowz street gang members Jessie Henderson and Dennis Baptiste inside an apartment at 729 Maryland St. on Jan. 31, 2009.

Roulette, known also to Asham by the street name Bigs, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is presumed innocent.

He is accused of brutally stabbing and beating the intoxicated 23-year-olds, friends of his, and trying to cover up the killings by starting a fire in the suite before fleeing.

Asham told jurors early on the morning of the men's deaths, he got a call from Roulette, made from Henderson's phone saying he was at a party on Maryland.

Sometime between 3 and 5 a.m., Roulette called again from the same number while Asham, then-girlfriend Susan Collins and another man shopped at an all-night Walmart. Roulette made a chilling admission, said Asham.

"He just told me he murked (murdered) two guys," said Asham. "He just said he murked them, that he needed my help." Roulette seemed paranoid, he added. "(He) thought they were plotting against them or something."

Roulette asked for help "dispatching" the bodies, said Asham. "He told me to come to the back of the Maryland party -- the back lane."

Asham told court he wanted nothing to do with any homicides and was "choked" at the fact Roulette would ask him to assist over the phone.

"You don't talk over the phone about stuff like that," he said.

At first he thought Roulette was joking, but came to believe he wasn't.

Roulette was being "dead straight," said Asham.

"I think he said he shanked them -- stabbed them."

He did offer advice on how to clean up the crime scene, he said. One thing discussed was possibly starting a fire as one way to destroy evidence. "Get rid of any evidence that you can," Asham said he told Roulette.

Asham said he told Collins what Roulette told him. She testified on Wednesday she didn't recall this, but blamed her poor memory on her cocaine habit.

Police spoke with Asham several times in connection to the case but he said he routinely rebuffed them.

It wasn't until March 2010 he decided to become a co-operating witness.

He admitted he had spent months in jail on remand and hoped to get some consideration for coming forward.

Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky grilled Asham about his criminal past, noting several of his charges were stayed after speaking to police, as well as challenging his motivation for giving investigators an unsworn statement the Crown might consider credible.

Asham admitted assuming he would be the sole witness when coming forward.

"I tried to sell a story. It didn't get me off -- it didn't get me anywhere," Asham told Brodsky. "There wasn't any deal made where I got off."

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 13, 2013 A9

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