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This article was published 13/2/2018 (844 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the second-degree murder trial continues for the man accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, a jury heard about the aftermath of an argument the accused reportedly had with Tina the week before she was found dead.
Raymond Cormier, 56, has pleaded not guilty in the teen girl's death, and the Crown has said no DNA evidence exists that would tie him to the crime.
A medical examiner's autopsy was not able to determine how Tina died, after her body was found in the Red River on Aug. 17, 2014. It may have been in the water for as many as nine days, court heard.
The Crown's case against Cormier focuses on circumstantial evidence prosecutors argue points to him — a homeless meth addict who befriended the young girl during her visit to Winnipeg that summer, and who seemed concerned after Tina threatened to call the police on him.
Cormier told a friend he "took care of it," after her threat, the jury heard Tuesday in Winnipeg.
An argument Tina had with Cormier on Aug. 6, 2014, propelled her to a Main Street payphone, where she called 911 to report her friend "Sebastian" — a name Cormier was using — had stolen a blue truck earlier that day. The emergency dispatcher told her to call city police directly.
"'Kay then," she said, sounding defeated in a recording of the call played in court.
Sitting on a bench having a smoke at Main Street and Magnus Avenue in Winnipeg's North End, Robert Sango saw the girl slam the phone into the receiver. She walked over and asked him for a cigarette.
"The minute she touched the cigarette, she broke up and started crying," the 51-year-old testified Tuesday.
In a conversation Sango would retell to Winnipeg police three days after Tina was found dead, he asked her what was wrong.
She told him she'd been at a friend's house. She said she was left alone with an older man when the friend and her boyfriend went upstairs. The older man "put the moves on her" and called her derogatory names when she said no and rebuffed his advances, Sango said she told him.
"She started crying again when she mentioned somebody calling her bad names," he said.
The girl told him about seeing her bike dismantled as she was leaving the house, getting in an argument with the older man and calling the police from a payphone, Sango said.
Sango, who was on parole for committing a series of bank robberies in the 1980s, told court he asked her where her parents were.
"She explained to me that she couldn't go there," he said, and that she'd run away from a girls' home. She told him she had nowhere to go, and Sango testified he told her it's dangerous to say that to a complete stranger, "especially in that area" of the city.
Sango said he told her she should get off the street, but he didn't have enough money to give her bus fare.
"At the end of our conversation, she shook my hand and told me her name was Tina," Sango testified.
"Like Tina Turner," he replied, but Sango said he could tell she was too young to understand the reference to the 1970s and '80s music star.
Sango said he was almost late for his nightly curfew as he watched her walk toward Sutherland Avenue, where she said she would stay with a friend. Sango said she was concerned somebody might follow her, but didn't see anyone who looked like they were going to harm her.
"(She was) very, very naive. Just a baby. She was a baby. She struck me as a very young and polite, but naive, girl," he testified.
Though Tina had made good on her threat that same night, Cormier told a friend he "took care of it" after the teen threatened to get the police involved.
In testimony Cormier's defence team suggested was motivated by revenge, Ernest DeWolfe, 51, told court about conversations he had with Cormier during the summer of 2014.
DeWolfe said he met Cormier while they were both serving time and working as cleaners at Stony Mountain Institution six or seven years ago, and they later moved into the same halfway house after they were released on parole.
They didn't speak for about a year after DeWolfe said Cormier didn't repay money he loaned him. They reconnected during the summer of 2014, after DeWolfe said he was driving to a job interview when he saw Cormier "all grubbed out" with scrap metal on the side of the road.
DeWolfe told court he saw Tina once at a home on Carmen Avenue in the Elmwood neighbourhood, where he and Cormier used to hang out, but was never introduced.
DeWolfe testified Cormier told him he'd slept with Tina — testimony that prompted Tina's great-aunt, Thelma Favel, to leave the courtroom in tears. He said Cormier told him in mid-August 2014 about an argument he had with Tina, during which she threatened to call the police while he had possession of a stolen truck.
DeWolfe said he was concerned to hear that, because he thought if police got involved, none of them would be able to party and do drugs at the Carmen Avenue house.
"I figured that the cops would be coming to the house," he said.
He testified he asked Cormier what came of the argument with Tina, whom he didn't know by name.
"He said that he had talked to her and straightened it all out. He took care of it, he took care of it," DeWolfe said. "I just presumed that he talked to her and she wouldn't be calling the cops."
DeWolfe first told police Sept. 30, 2014, he wanted to speak to them about the case. At the time, he was in jail at Milner Ridge Correctional Centre for theft.
Homicide investigators interviewed him the next day, and later showed him a photo of a duvet cover that matched the one that was wrapped around Tina's body when it was pulled from the river. DeWolfe told police he remembered seeing the same blanket, "with a fall scene" along with Cormier's other belongings spread out on the living room floor of the Carmen Avenue house one day.
The couple who then lived in the house, Sarah Holland and Tyrell Morrison, previously testified they didn't remember ever seeing the duvet cover.
Cormier's defence lawyer, Andrew Synyshyn, questioned DeWolfe on his motivation for coming forward with information about the case, suggesting the conversations DeWolfe spoke of never happened and he was trying to get back at Cormier for an incident years ago when Cormier "ratted out" DeWolfe to police.
The incident, which happened before Tina died, resulted in DeWolfe going back to jail, after having been released on parole. He later found out Cormier had talked to police about him.
DeWolfe denied the suggestions he wanted to get back at Cormier, saying it was "neither here nor there for me." He noted Cormier also went back to jail around the same time.
"Irregardless of what Cormier said, I was going back to jail. It was my own fault," DeWolfe said of the past incident, details of which were not shared with the jury.
He acknowledged his long criminal record, which includes assaults, thefts and armed robbery, and admitted he wouldn't normally volunteer information to the police.
DeWolfe said he decided to do it in this case, "because it involves a child, and I have beliefs and morals and I had something that I thought would be prudent to them."
After he was interviewed by homicide investigators, they asked him if he'd work as a police agent in the investigation, but he declined to do so, the jury heard.
DeWolfe said he didn't get any reward for the information he offered to investigators.
Meanwhile, the second-degree murder trial is going ahead with one less juror.
A female juror was discharged from her jury duties Tuesday because her mother suffered a serious stroke. The remaining 11 jurors will be tasked with hearing the rest of the evidence and reaching a verdict in the case.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
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Updated on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 6:25 PM CST: Full write through
8:07 PM: Final version write through