September 21, 2019

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A gunshot, a fire, a brother's frantic calls to his sister

Brother testifies at trial of Jeanenne Fontaine's accused killers

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/1/2019 (256 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When he heard a knock on the front door and opened it to three men, Chuck Fontaine never suspected trouble.

Minutes later that mid-March day, he found himself running down the street in sock feet, repeatedly calling and texting his sister.

He started running after hearing a gunshot and seeing a man switch on the stovetop and pile it with clothes. Had she managed to get out before the house started burning? Where was she?

Fontaine's younger sister, 29-year-old Jeanenne Fontaine, died after she was shot in the back of the head and left inside her Aberdeen Avenue home while it was ablaze around 9:30 a.m. March 14, 2017. A forensic pathologist confirmed Tuesday Jeanenne wasn't breathing during the fire, but doctors revived her heart in hospital. She died the next day. At the time, her brother didn't know she'd been shot.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/1/2019 (256 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When he heard a knock on the front door and opened it to three men, Chuck Fontaine never suspected trouble.

Minutes later that mid-March day, he found himself running down the street in sock feet, repeatedly calling and texting his sister.

FACEBOOK PHOTO</p><p>Jeanenne Fontaine.</p>

FACEBOOK PHOTO

Jeanenne Fontaine.

He started running after hearing a gunshot and seeing a man switch on the stovetop and pile it with clothes. Had she managed to get out before the house started burning? Where was she?

Fontaine's younger sister, 29-year-old Jeanenne Fontaine, died after she was shot in the back of the head and left inside her Aberdeen Avenue home while it was ablaze around 9:30 a.m. March 14, 2017. A forensic pathologist confirmed Tuesday Jeanenne wasn't breathing during the fire, but doctors revived her heart in hospital. She died the next day. At the time, her brother didn't know she'd been shot.

On Tuesday, nearly two years later, he recounted his memories of that day while testifying in front of a jury for the trial of two men accused in Jeanenne's death. Having been inside the home when the gun went off, he is the prosecution's only eye witness, although he didn't see who fired the gun or where it was aimed.

Christopher Brass and Jason Meilleur have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, and the jury is tasked with hearing the evidence against them during a Court of Queen's Bench trial that began this week. A third co-accused isn't part of the trial.

Vincent Charles "Chuck" Fontaine didn't know the men who appeared at the door that day and on the witness stand Tuesday he could offer only vague descriptions of each of them. They'd asked for "Monte" — his sister's boyfriend — who jurors heard was a drug dealer.

Fontaine assumed, he agreed during cross-examination Tuesday, that the three men wanted to buy drugs. Monte wasn't there, but after Fontaine opened the door, one of the men asked for Jen, and he pointed him to his sister's bedroom.

"They were all calm when they came in," the 34-year-old Fontaine testified.

A photo from the trial shows the kitchen of the Jeanenne Fontaine's Aberdeen Avenue home after the fire. Fontaine's brother Chuck testified he saw a man turn on the stovetop and pile it with clothes. (Winnipeg Free Press)

A photo from the trial shows the kitchen of the Jeanenne Fontaine's Aberdeen Avenue home after the fire. Fontaine's brother Chuck testified he saw a man turn on the stovetop and pile it with clothes. (Winnipeg Free Press)

"I let them in because they asked for Monte. Usually when people ask for Monte, I tell them he doesn’t stay here and tell them to f—- off. But every time I do that, my little sister gets kinda mad at me, so I just thought I’d let them in," he said in response to questions from defence lawyer Theodore Mariash.

Soon after he let the men inside, one of them tried to take his cellphone, but Fontaine said he managed to take it back without feeling threatened. Another man went through the small house, looking for Monte. A third man stood by the front door while one of the men went to talk to Jeanenne. Fontaine said he could hear them talking, but couldn't hear what they were saying.

Fontaine said he then heard a knock in the back porch and opened the unhinged back door to two friends who'd come to see Jeanenne. He hadn't been chatting with them very long before they suddenly ran back out the door.

Looking behind him to see what had startled them, Fontaine said he saw one of the men "masked up" and running through the house carrying a silver and black revolver.

Daylight flooded the front room, a sign someone had opened the front door. Fontaine testified he saw the light and then heard a gunshot. That's when he ran.

A photo from the trial shows Jeanenne  Fontaine's purses hanging on the wall in the bedroom of her Aberdeen Avenue home after the fire. (Winnipeg Free Press)

A photo from the trial shows Jeanenne Fontaine's purses hanging on the wall in the bedroom of her Aberdeen Avenue home after the fire. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Under cross-examination, Fontaine agreed he'd only seen one man with a gun and that the other two just stood around. He admitted he lied to arson investigators when he told them the three men hadn't talked to each other at all. He admitted his history of using and selling meth and said he didn't want to call the police at first because he didn't realize how serious the incident was.

Mariash, who is representing Meilleur, questioned Fontaine's reliability as a witness.

"Would it be fair to say, sir, that you have an interest in the outcome of this case? You want to see as many people punished for the death of your sister as possible, right?" Mariash asked him.

"I want to see the three people that were there, that harmed my f—-ing sister, get what they deserve," Fontaine answered.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

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History

Updated on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at 1:20 PM CST: Name fixed.

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