Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Two more years in jail for friend's balcony plunge

Man sentenced in apartment death

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Some witnesses claim he shoved her. Others say he was trying to save her.

And while the exact circumstances of a deadly 11th-floor balcony plunge may never be known, one thing is now clear: the man responsible for Alinda Lahteenmaki's tragic death will soon be back on the streets.

Mario Trunzo was sentenced to another two years in jail Monday, in addition to 27 months of time already served, which was given doubled-time credit of 54 months. On paper, it's a 61/2-year sentence. It's also much less than the automatic life sentence Trunzo would have faced if convicted of the original charge of second-degree murder.

Trunzo, 44, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter just as his jury trial was set to begin. The Crown agreed to the plea bargain and joint recommendation on sentencing, citing major problems with their case including conflicting witness statements about what happened.

Lahteenmaki, 23, died instantly in the January 2009 fall at 375 Assiniboine Ave. Trunzo initially claimed he had nothing to do with his girlfriend's death and suggested she committed suicide. He has now admitted to shoving Lahteenmaki during a heated argument, which ended with her perched on the ledge threatening to jump. Trunzo claims he tried to pull her back over but she slipped from his grasp.

Trunzo and Lahteenmaki were severely intoxicated at the time from alcohol, cocaine and other drugs, court was told. They were partying in the known "crack house" with several other people.

"There's no question what occurred here was needless and particularly devastating to this young woman's family," Queen's Bench Justice Joan McKelvey said Monday.

She said it's clear the Crown faced a big risk had they not struck a deal with Trunzo and opted to bring the case to trial.

"There is conjecture about what occurred in that apartment," said McKelvey.

A man who was partying in the suite originally gave a statement to police claiming Trunzo grabbed Lahteenmaki and forced her towards the open window. He allegedly lifted her off the ground and dangled her feet out the window.

"She was half in and half out and he says, 'You want to die b h, go ahead and die.' She kept saying 'no, no' and I didn't see her head anymore," the witness claimed, according to a statement presented by the Crown at Trunzo's bail hearing. He said Trunzo eventually started yelling for help, only to let Lahteenmaki slip from his grasp.

Another woman claimed Lahteenmaki was screaming for help, pleading with Trunzo to "Don't let go" in the seconds before she fell.

However, other witnesses told a much different story, claiming Lahteenmaki had made comments earlier in the night about killing herself by jumping out the window and even wrote a suicide note that was seized by police.

Lahteenmaki had been battling depression and suicidal thoughts, which included a stint at a mental health facility one week before her death, court was told.

As well, several of the Crown witnesses were severely intoxicated at the time and would have had major credibility issues at trial.

Lahteenmaki's family expressed disappointment with the plea bargain and made a series of emotional victim impact statements in court.

"I will never see her beautiful smile, her laughing eyes. The loss is with the family every day," the victim's mother said Monday.

McKelvey said she sympathizes with the family's views.

"There can be no justice for a family who loses a loved one," she said.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2012 B2

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