Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fatal attack described to jury

Homicide victim's daughter set to testify

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The grieving daughter of a Winnipeg man randomly attacked in his own yard is expected to testify today about watching the horrific event unfold right before her eyes.

Two young Winnipeg men have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death of Joseph Lalonde, 48.

They were 15 years old at the time they were arrested. They were charged as youths and therefore cannot be identified in media reports. They are presumed innocent.

Lalonde was attacked and severely beaten around 11 p.m., on Aug. 24, 2011, outside his Dufferin Avenue home.

He died in hospital five days later, never regaining consciousness.

"It's a simple case. It's tragic," Crown prosecutor Susan Baragar told a 14-member Court of Queen's Bench jury on Monday.

"It's a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, of mistaken identity and of a father trying to protect his pregnant daughter," Baragar said in her opening statement.

Prosecutors allege the teens came armed with a bat and air rifle to confront a street gang rival they ran into outside Lalonde's home minutes earlier.

When they got there, Baragar said, the only person remaining outside was Lalonde's daughter, 18.

She wasn't involved in the earlier incident.

The armed suspects turned their attention towards her and struck her with the bat, jurors heard.

Lalonde saw it happen and stepped in to protect his daughter, Baragar said.

The teens allegedly responded by brutally kicking and bashing Lalonde with the bat.

They then fled and stashed the blood-covered bat under some stairs at a nearby home, said Baragar.

Tactical unit Consts. Melvin Davis and Douglas Skibo were among the first officers to arrive at the crime scene.

Skibo told court he got out of the police cruiser to hear "screaming and crying" from a nearby yard.

Lalonde, later identified as the man Skibo saw, was laid out on the lawn and bleeding. He was unresponsive, Skibo testified.

"He was unconscious the whole time," said Skibo. He'd suffered "severe head trauma," he said.

Skibo said he separated Lalonde's daughter from her injured dad's side and tried to calm her down.

She was also injured, said Skibo. Although she disclosed being 21 weeks pregnant, it wasn't evident, Skibo said.

The teens were arrested shortly after and charged with assaulting Lalonde, who was still clinging to life in an intensive care ward.

"I think we killed him," one of the youths is alleged to have told a friend prior to his arrest.

Jurors were shown clothes and shoes police seized from the teens in the investigation, along with the recovered bat.

Blood found on the bat was tested and matched Lalonde's, said Baragar.

The Crown's theory is the teens acted together to kill Lalonde and are therefore equally responsible.

"It was a combination of blows that were fatal," said Baragar.

"I suspect that you will be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty of second-degree murder -- together -- in the death of Joseph Lalonde," she said.

Defence lawyers Scott Newman and Bill Armstrong began laying a foundation for a possible argument that the teens were drunk on rum and beer at the time of the attack.

Intoxication can impact whether a person is legally capable of forming the intent to commit murder.

After the noon-hour break, the two accused pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon for attacking Lalonde's daughter.

Sentencing was put off until after the murder trial concludes. It's set to last up to three weeks.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2014 B3

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