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Path to slaying confession detailed

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An RCMP officer's suspicions a "disinterested" Kenneth McDougall was holding something back about how his wife came to collapse in their Portage la Prairie home ultimately led to the extraction of a chilling written confession detailing how he tried to kill her, a jury heard Tuesday.

McDougall, 58, is on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the asphyxiation-related death of his wife, Justina, 47, three days after she was found unresponsive by police and paramedics in their home and rushed to hospital on the morning of Jan. 20, 2010. She died days later.

McDougall concedes he killed her but is asking jurors to find him not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

Const. Marlin Fehr testified Tuesday McDougall willingly came with him to the local detachment to give a statement about what happened to Justina hours after police responded to a 911 distress call from the home. At this point, the police probe was not a criminal investigation, Fehr said.

But getting information out of McDougall was a challenge, Fehr suggested. McDougall seemed "disinterested" in what was happening. Fehr said the man's behaviour raised "flags" for him. "I was surprised at how calm (he) was, seeing his wife was still in hospital," Fehr said.

After concluding a 36-minute taped interview, he took McDougall to a room by the police station's entranceway. There, Fehr said he asked him if he wanted someone -- perhaps a medical professional -- to speak with. "I just felt that he had something to get off his chest," Fehr said. "To me, it feels he had something to say."

Fehr asked him point blank if he had choked his wife. "He said, 'no,' " Fehr told court. Minutes later, he and McDougall had another exchange. Fehr said he told McDougall about how sometimes people make mistakes, and if he wanted to change his statement, it would be best to do it now.

McDougall now said yes, he wanted to change his statement, Fehr testified. "What did you want to change?" Fehr asked him. "I choked her," said McDougall, according to Fehr. The officer said he stared at McDougall in shock for 10 to 15 seconds and then arrested him for assault.

Another lengthy interview then took place. In it, McDougall wrote out a confession letter that was read in full to the jury by Fehr. That morning, the couple had argued after dropping their daughter off at school, according to McDougall's version. Things turned violent -- with Justina saying, " 'You promised you won't hurt me again,' " his statement said.

"No, I'm going to kill you," McDougall said he responded, just before his hands wrapped around her neck. McDougall's signed statement goes on to describe how he pushed his wife down in their living room and choked her, stopping to check if she was breathing, and then choking her some more before putting a pillow over her face.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 23, 2013 A10

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