Crown stays charge in dancer’s death

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Who killed Harry Gegwetch?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2013 (3356 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Who killed Harry Gegwetch?

That’s the question left hanging after prosecutors abruptly dropped their manslaughter case Tuesday against Darrell Walter Longclaws, a man with a track record of violence who was suspected of killing the popular powwow dancer inside an abandoned downtown Winnipeg apartment block.

The allegation kept Longclaws, now 34, behind bars for more than two years.

Dancer Harry Gegwetch was gripped by alcoholism.

“Whoever did this horrible thing to Mr. Gegwetch is still out there,” said Longclaws’ defence lawyer, Greg Brodsky.

Longclaws appeared briefly in Court of Queen’s Bench where he pleaded guilty to a charge of simple assault for punching and kneeing Gegwetch in a drunken fight inside a suite at an abandoned apartment block at 377 Carlton St. on Nov. 11, 2011.

“There appears to be evidence of some intervening event between the assault and the death of the individual that would be the cause of death, as opposed to this particular assault,” Justice Chris Martin said.

Longclaws was sentenced to eight months of time served for the assault and was due to be released.

He was arrested a few days after Gegwetch, 42, was discovered near death.

The Crown said the two men and a woman met up at 3:45 p.m. at the Liquor Mart on Ellice Avenue and broke into the abandoned apartment block to drink.

The assault took place within the first hour, prosecutor Carrie Ritchot said.

Gegwetch was punched and kneed in the face during an argument with Longlcaws. The assault was witnessed by the woman, who left the apartment soon after. She thought both men would walk away from the incident, court heard.

Gegwetch, an alcoholic who was homeless, wasn’t found until 2 a.m. the next day.

Firefighters found him clinging to life after they were called to the apartment block due to a fire. The blaze was deemed suspicious, but police couldn’t say if it had been deliberately set.

The Crown only had evidence to prove Longclaws assaulted Gegwetch — not that it resulted in Gegwetch’s death.

‘Whoever did this horrible thing to Mr. Gegwetch is still out there’ — defence lawyer Greg Brodsky

“The evidence that we have is that the accused both punched and kneed the victim in the face area,” Ritchot said.

Brodsky said Longclaws also left the suite after the fight.

When Gegwetch was found, furniture in the suite had been moved, clothes were piled up neatly next to him and there was a bloodied shovel that wasn’t there when the female witness left. She didn’t know where the shovel came from, Brodsky said.

“We know that much transpired after she left that had nothing to do with (Longclaws)… . He left also,” Brodsky said.

Longclaws has several violent convictions, including one for criminal negligence causing death that netted him a two-year sentence in 2001.

He made headlines in 2010 after he was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison for viciously beating “homeless hero” Faron Hall with a table leg inside Hall’s suite.

Gegwetch’s family told the Free Press he was a talented aboriginal dancer whose life spiralled out of control and into alcoholism and homelessness months before he died.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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