Animals led to discovery of Wood’s remains, trial told

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Scavenging animals led to the discovery of Christine Wood's remains almost a year after she went missing, a Court of Queen's Bench murder trial was told Friday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/05/2019 (1375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Scavenging animals led to the discovery of Christine Wood’s remains almost a year after she went missing, a Court of Queen’s Bench murder trial was told Friday.

An autopsy later found she had suffered numerous stab wounds and a blunt-force injury so severe it broke her skull.

Richard Vaags, who farms land just outside of Winnipeg in the RM of Springfield, told the nine-man, three-woman jury he and his son, Joel, were checking the condition of their soybean fields June 1, 2017, when they spotted a small hole in an area where the soil had been disturbed.

Christine Wood was staying with her parents at an airport-area hotel when she left one evening and never returned. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“You could tell an animal had dug it up,” Vaags testified. “Whatever was there was in black plastic.”

He said they realized they could see bones in the hole and called the RCMP.

The remains were later identified as Wood’s.

The 21-year-old woman was in Winnipeg, staying with her parents at an airport-area hotel on Aug. 20, 2016, when she left for the evening and never returned. Wood’s parents had travelled to the the city from Oxford House, accompanying a relative who had a medical appointment.

Court has been told in March 2017, a Winnipeg Police Service search of Brett Overby’s home at 341 Burrows Ave. found Wood’s blood in the basement.

Overby, 32, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

During an interview with police, Overby denied meeting Wood, but a later search of his computer found three photos of the pair together. The Crown believes Wood met Overby on an online dating site.

Court photos of the evidence markers and a hole where Christine Wood's remains were found near a farm road. (Supplied)

Vaags told court it would have been tough for anyone to dig down into the soil: “Unless it is wet, it is hard to dig into — it is gumbo.”

In later testimony, RCMP civilian member Lindsay Scott said because of the soil conditions — and not wanting to disturb evidence — she and a colleague first used trowels to excavate the site before deciding to use their hands.

Scott said some of the remains were visible even before they started.

“As we looked at the disturbance, you could see a spine and pelvis and long red-black hair,” she said.

“The head portion was wrapped in black plastic and the lower limbs were wrapped in black plastic. The centre of the deceased was mostly scattered by animals. One arm was no longer there.”

Scott said RCMP officers guarded the scene overnight, and when she returned the next day, a search of the area on the opposite side of a nearby dirt road found a mud-encrusted cellphone, face down on the ground.

“It was quite dirty,” she said. “It looked like it had been there for some time.”

A photo in evidence at Brett Overby's trial shows Christine Wood's mobile phone discovered in the area her body was found.

Later, in an agreed statement of facts presented to court, Crown attorney Chantal Boutin said the phone — and a battery found separately nearby — belonged to Wood.

Crown and defence counsels have also agreed both the plastic sheeting found at the Burrows home and wrapped around Wood’s body were manufactured by a Quebec company, have the same marking code, and the product was sold and shipped to Springhill Lumber in Winnipeg on Aug. 25, 2015.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dennis Rhee, who performed the autopsy, said he found several separate stab wounds on the decomposed remains.

He said one wound — which plunged seven centimetres into the neck — was inflicted with such force it went through part of the spinal column, splitting the bone. Another wound sliced nine centimetres across the neck, while another went through both chin and tongue, Rhee said.

The woman also suffered two blunt-force injuries: one with enough force to break the bone in part of her skull, while the other broke her leg, he said.

Rhee concluded the cause of Wood’s death was extensive sharp and blunt-force trauma, but couldn’t say for sure which internal organs may have been injured because they were no longer intact, due to animals finding the body at some point.

On Friday, prosecutor Brent Davidson told Justice Chris Martin the Crown had finished calling evidence.

Christine Wood's remains were found in Springfield. (Ruth Bonneville photos / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Overby’s lawyer, Sarah Innes, said she will be calling evidence next week.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

History

Updated on Friday, May 3, 2019 4:49 PM CDT: full writethru, updates, new photos

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