Weeks before he was arrested in a recent homicide, Nevis Carter was in a Winnipeg courtroom, where a judge heard there were no resources available to support the mentally ill man in the community.
Carter, 38, has been charged with manslaughter in the Nov. 18 slaying of 41-year-old Oghenetega Ufuoma inside an Osborne Village neighbourhood bus shelter.
Police said the pair, who were known to frequent the area, were in the Transit shelter on the northeast side of River Avenue and Osborne Street when Ufuoma was attacked.
On Oct. 22, Carter pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, after admitting to shoplifting $2,150 worth of perfume over two visits to a Shoppers Drug Mart on McGillivray Boulevard.
Provincial court Judge Rob Finlayson sentenced Carter to six months time served, plus one month in custody — one month less than recommended by prosecutor Kellie Stashko, who argued the extra time was necessary to firm up community supports.
"The biggest hurdle for Mr. Carter seems to be from the time he gets out of custody to him being put in touch with supports in the community, as he typically falls back on drugs or a homeless lifestyle very quickly," Stashko said.
"We are of the view that having some current time moving forward will provide Mr. Carter more time in order to promote release planning and have more fulsome discussions with his probation officer."
Carter has 22 convictions for theft, a criminal record exacerbated by drug addiction and schizophrenia, court heard.
"This is an individual who has been through the cycle a lot," Carter’s lawyer, Nolan Boucher, said in October.
Boucher told court he came up against "incredible hurdles" trying to secure community supports for Carter in the period between his release from custody and supervision by a probation officer.
The defence lawyer said he tried to have Carter’s case diverted to the province’s mental health court, which would be in a better position to connect him with services but Carter wasn’t accepted because his schizophrenia was determined to be drug-induced.
"I don’t know what the differentiation is, but this is the third client I have had who has been diagnosed with that who has been refused on those grounds," Boucher said. "I followed up and they aren’t able to tell me more, except that it is their policy."
In January, Carter tried to have a robbery charge diverted to the province’s drug court, but was denied admission. Boucher said he was told the offence, which was later downgraded to theft, was considered too serious to be handled by the court.
Carter has no identification and no immediate means to secure any, Boucher said, noting his identity would have to be verified by someone who has known him for two years and of a certain profession, such as a lawyer or dentist.
“With no identification he can’t get any social assistance, he can’t get housing… he can’t get a prescription." – Carter’s lawyer, Nolan Boucher
"With no identification he can’t get any social assistance, he can’t get housing… he can’t get a prescription," Boucher said. "It’s a situation where he starts over again every single time he’s out."
Finlayson said he sympathized with Carter’s struggles, but said it was up to him to do his part to get help.
"We need you to make the best effort you can possibly make," he said. "We need to get a start and with you co-operating, I think we have a shot. But if you don’t co-operate, you go back (into custody) and that’s another opportunity lost."
Carter remains in custody.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.