Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Justice for little Venecia? Doubtful

Couple escapes murder conviction

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Jason Kines was led handcuffed and sobbing from a Dauphin courtroom Monday morning. The poor dear believed he'd get probation or the sweet kiss of a conditional sentence for his role in the 2006 murder of three-year-old Venecia Audy.

Before his trial for sexual interference on a child under 14, aggravated sexual assault and first-degree murder began, Kines pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life.

The child's mother, a honey of a gal named Melissa Audy, pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2009.

She was sentenced to one year in jail as part of a plea bargain. Audy did not take the stand at Kines' trial.

Kines got the same sentence, despite his defence team's best efforts to move the judge to offer a public scolding and little more.

Justice Brian Midwinter explained to the court he had no choice but to toss the three most serious charges. He agreed with a defence motion the jury could not convict beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the Crown was unable to prove Kines was the only person who could have bitten Venecia's buttocks and vaginal area, the rest of their case fell like the proverbial deck of cards.

Court was told Venecia's injuries included a fractured skull, lacerated liver, broken ribs, a spinal injury, numerous bruises across her body and the human bite marks.

A bite expert testified Kines was the probable biter.

"They were adult bites. He has closely set teeth that matched the bites," explains reporter Michelle Nyquist, who covered the trial for the Dauphin Herald. "Her mother has missing teeth."

So we know it wasn't Melissa Audy -- who had her first child at 15, tried to abort another by sticking a knife in her pregnant belly and who ultimately gave birth to four children -- who bit the child repeatedly.

What we do know is that after the final assault on the baby, Audy waited several hours to call 911, first claiming her 27-pound daughter had fallen down the stairs. Kines wasn't home when the child died.

At the trial, the Crown argued Venecia had likely been dead for hours before her mother made the emergency call.

Kines was out the night before Venecia was killed. He got home around 3:30 in the morning. A friend who picked him up for work the next day claims he saw Venecia alive.

It's not exactly an airtight alibi, but there's reasonable doubt again.

The Crown could not prove Kines was the only man who might have violated the baby. The basement window opened wide enough to admit an adult. Reasonable doubt.

Melissa Audy hooked up with Kines a year before Venecia died. That's the period when the abuse occurred. Still, reasonable doubt.

The very best scenario is Kines knew his girlfriend's daughter was being starved, bitten and bruised. The evidence was all over her. That's why he's doing a year, despite his snivelling.

Midwinter did administer the public scolding, reminding Kines we are all responsible for the children in our lives.

Kines now has a three-year-old daughter with another woman.

Venecia was a CFS baby. Her mother had been under scrutiny since she had her first child at 15. She was deemed an unfit parent in 2003, had her children seized and began fighting to get them back in 2004.

In 2006, a family court judge ordered the children returned to their mother. A few months later, Venecia was dead.

Her death was one of several that led to a review of Manitoba's child-welfare system.

Justice Midwinter offered the jury psychological counselling when he ordered the trial ended. Half of them left the court before Kines was sentenced.

So this is Venecia Audy's elegy: A three-year-old is dead but no one is legally guilty of killing her. There's reasonable doubt anyone except the wee girl will ever pay for the crime.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2012 A7

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she wrote for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business -- though she joked she'd get around to them some day.

Sadly, that day will never come. Lindor died in October 2014 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer.

Lindor received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.

Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and was awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

Reynolds was 56. She is survived by a husband, mother, a daughter and son-in-law and three stepdaughters.

The Free Press has published an ebook celebrating the best of Lindor's work. It's available in the Winnipeg Free Press Store; all proceeds will be donated through our Miracle on Mountain charity to the Christmas Cheer Board.


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