Christophur Baur was bludgeoned, stabbed and strangled, before his body was hidden in the crawlspace underneath his alleged killer’s porch following a dispute over a drug debt, a Winnipeg jury was told Monday.
James Morris has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the Jan. 3, 2015, slaying, arguing he was acting in self-defence.
While the charge against Morris is a serious one, "this is a straightforward case," Crown attorney Mike Himmelman told jurors in a brief opening address.
Baur worked at a West End restaurant, but was also making money selling cocaine, jurors heard. The two men got into a fight at Morris’s Magnus Avenue home, with Morris bludgeoning Baur several times about the head and body, Himmelman said.
Morris, Himmelman alleged, tied Baur’s wrists, strangled him and stabbed him in the neck. Police discovered his body Feb. 15, 2015, wrapped in a blanket and plastic underneath Morris’s porch.
Police initially treated Baur’s disappearance as a missing-persons case, not a homicide, Winnipeg Police Service Const. Thomas Guenther testified.
Guenther said police learned on Jan. 12, 2015, that Baur was involved in the drug trade and had a second cellphone he allegedly used as a drug line.
Phone records showed no outgoing calls on either of Baur’s cellphones after Jan. 3, the last day he was seen alive. Morris, the records showed, called Baur three times that day, the last call coming in at 8:48 p.m. Morris consented to a police interview on Feb. 3, 2015.
"I knew there were a few phone calls between them, so I wanted to know what they talked about, I wanted to learn if he had seen (Baur) that evening — anything that could help me in the investigation," Guenther testified.
Guenther did not tell the jury what Morris told him but said he was released without charge at the end of a 35-minute interview.
Baur had addiction issues, Guenther said under cross-examination by defence lawyer Ian Histed, confirming four empty drug baggies were found in his bedroom following his death.
Histed alleged Baur had filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and suggested he owed money to his drug suppliers.
"You identified five to eight drug associates he was to meet (the night Baur was killed)," Histed said.
"The people I had spoken to didn’t bring up anything about money being owed," Guenther said.
The trial is set for two weeks.