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A former high school education assistant accused of having sex with a student denied the allegations and proclaimed her innocence in court Wednesday.
Sheryl Ann Dyck, 44, took the stand in her own defence, testifying she never had sex, did drugs or drank with a 16-year-old student at Elmwood High School who she was responsible for supervising.
"I’ve never touched him in any way," she said.
Dyck is accused of one count of sexual exploitation for alleged abuse that happened when the teen was 16 and 17 years old, while Dyck was working as a teacher's aide at the school in 2014.
She is accused of buying the teen alcohol and doing drugs with him outside of school hours between March and October 2014, which was Dyck's sixth year as an educational assistant at the high school. In a statement to police, the teen said Dyck had sexual intercourse with him on his 17th birthday.
During her testimony Wednesday, the married mother of three said that never happened, contrary to previous testimony from the complainant, as well as his mother and his sister, who told court they were aware of a sexual relationship between Dyck and the teen.
"Why would these people say these things about you?" defence lawyer Gisele Champagne asked her client.
"I think that they’re ruthless people. They’re gang-affiliated," Dyck replied. "I… had authority, and I had to tell him what to do. He got angry. He didn’t like that."
Dyck denied seeing the student outside of school, apart from two extracurricular sports games she and other school staff attended.
When her lawyer asked how she felt to be testifying Wednesday, Dyck said, "I feel strong. I'm innocent."
Video surveillance from a Main Street liquor store filmed in October 2014 — about two weeks after Dyck was suspended from her job at Elmwood High because of a complaint from the teen's mother — shows Dyck and the complainant buying two bottles of liquor Dyck paid for and leaving together. The teen was 17 at the time.
Dyck testified she was not buying alcohol for the teen. She said it was for a relative of his who had agreed to replace her broken car bumper. On the stand, the complainant and his cousin, who was 18 at the time, testified they had agreed to fix Dyck's bumper but never did.
Dyck is unemployed. She was suspended from her educational assistant position before the Winnipeg Police Service's investigation and hasn't been able to find work since, she testified. She said she was told she was being suspended from her job based on allegations, but she said she wasn't told what those allegations were. When she found out, "I was apalled, disgusted, upset and angry," she said.
During his testimony earlier this week, the now-19-year-old man — who can't be identified under a publication ban — said it wasn't his idea to come forward with the allegations. He said his older sister saw him and Dyck together and told their mother, who reported it to the school and later convinced him to give a statement to police. The complainant's sister testified she had been drinking and doing drugs with her brother and the accused on the evening of his 17th birthday.
"I wasn’t trying to get anybody to lose their job at all," he testified.
He testified he initially thought Dyck was "a cool person" who would buy him lunch at the cafeteria and sometimes take him and other students to 7-Eleven for Slurpees.
"She was a good EA. She was helping me with my schoolwork at Elmwood High School… but we were also smoking weed, drinking, having sexual intercourse," he said.
The teen acknowledged his past criminal record, which includes drug, robbery and breach charges, but he said he is clean now and works with other kids.
"I recently stopped doing drugs and that, and I’ve changed my life around again, so now I’m back to doing mentoring," he said.
Crown attorney Lee Turner called several witnesses including the police officer who was investigating the case. The trial continues before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Saull this week.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.