Jurors hear explicit details of victims’ wounds

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A Winnipeg jury has now seen photos of the horrific wounds two city street gang associates received before they died inside a Maryland Street apartment suite.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/09/2013 (3265 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg jury has now seen photos of the horrific wounds two city street gang associates received before they died inside a Maryland Street apartment suite.

But just how the various stab and assault wounds Jessie Henderson and Dennis Baptiste endured relates to the first-degree murder charges Kenneth Roulette now faces remains very much an open and undecided question.

Roulette, 28, has pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent.

Police and the Crown allege Roulette is responsible for the brutal deaths of the two Mad Cowz street gang associates — friends of his, prosecutors say — after an argument broke out inside 729 Maryland St. at around 5 a.m. on Jan. 31, 2009.

Prosecutors allege DNA places Roulette at the crime scene, and will call experts in the coming weeks to explain the technicalities of the evidence.

The Crown is currently setting a grim stage for Roulette’s six-man, six-woman jury of what police, paramedics and neighbours encountered on the morning Baptiste was found covered in blood at the entranceway to the West End multiplex and, soon after, Henderson on the living room rug located up a set of stairs from the suite’s doorway.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Charles Littman took jurors at length through his autopsy findings. Baptiste, 23, suffered multiple “sharp force” slash injuries to his head and neck, a series of stab wounds to his back and chest and brain trauma, he said.

“There’s no one injury in particular which would explain the death,” Littman said. “These wounds would bleed quite significantly.”

Despite Baptiste being found at the bottom of a set of stairs, Littman couldn’t conclude Baptiste took a tumble down. Littman said it was possible Baptiste was stabbed rapidly after he collapsed, due to the “tight group” of some stab wounds found on his body. Why Baptiste collapsed there, Littman couldn’t say.

“There are so many injuries on the individual that I can’t be absolutely precise,” he said.

“It would take a significant amount of trauma to cause these injuries,” said the pathologist. “They may well have rendered Mr. Baptiste unconscious.”

Baptiste’s blood-alcohol level was found to be four times the legal limit to drive and there was cocaine in his system, Littman said.

Henderson’s cause of death was smoke inhalation after he was left incapacitated by suffering multiple violent traumas, court heard. The 23-year-old also had been drinking prior to his death and had taken ecstasy at some point.

At the time police arrived and discovered the grisly homicides, a paper fire — believed to be intentionally set — was smouldering on the kitchen stove in the suite, which was filled with smoke and had to be ventilated by firefighters by smashing out the bedroom window.

Littman said he couldn’t be sure if a bloodied serrated kitchen knife recovered from the suite was the one used to inflict the stab and slash wounds on either man.

“Skin’s a funny substrate,” he said. “It’s possible.”

Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky broached the possibility Henderson and Baptiste had fought one another and caused the wounds. Littman said he couldn’t tell which injuries the men suffered were inflicted first.

“Can you say the blunt-force injuries were first, before the stabs or after?” Brodsky asked.

“No,” replied Littman.

“Can you say if a person could walk about after the slash wounds?” asked Brodsky.

“Absolutely,” said Littman. And yes, a person could still fight, he added upon more prodding by Brodsky.

Earlier Tuesday, the young women who lived next door to 729 Maryland at the time of the killings relayed what they saw and heard that morning prior to discovering Baptiste in the doorway and calling 911.

One of them said she came home around 5:30 a.m. to hear the sound of men — “it might have been more than two voices” — arguing inside the adjacent suite and moved quickly to get inside.

“I was a bit nervous, I just wanted to get into my house,” she testified. The neighbour’s door was slightly off its frame, she said.

She awoke around 8 a.m. to cover her bird cage and heard a continuous beeping she thought was an alarm clock.

She went back to bed for an hour. At 9 a.m., she awoke to get ready to give her live-in girlfriend a ride to work. Baptiste’s body was discovered by the girlfriend when she went out to start the car, jurors were told.

At that time, the door to 729 Maryland was completely off its hinges.

“I saw blood on the stairs,” the girlfriend testified. Baptiste, clad in a black T-shirt, lay in the doorway injured and unmoving, with a piece of wood believed to be baseboard clutched in his hand.

She called 911, telling the dispatcher she had believed there was a party there the previous night. She testified hearing loud rap music blaring before she went to bed before 3 a.m.

“There was a big party?” the dispatcher asked. “Yeah,” she replied, according to a transcript of the 911 call read to her by Brodsky.

Neither women knew their neighbours, they testified. Each remembered sometimes seeing a woman and a child and sometimes two men there.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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