December 15, 2019

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Jury hears final arguments in shocking Wolseley slaying

Jurors were told Monday they can reach only one reasonable conclusion in the trial of a woman who admitted stabbing her neighbour to death.

Brenda Schuff, 46, is on trial for second-degree murder in the death of her neighbour.

Brenda Schuff, 46, is on trial for second-degree murder in the death of her neighbour.

The prosecution and the defence, however, disagree on what the conclusion ought to be.

The Manitoba Court of Queen's bench jury heard final arguments in the trial of Brenda Schuff, who is accused of second-degree murder in the April 10, 2017 slaying of 54-year-old Judy Kenny.

Kenny was found dead in the kitchen of her Camden Place home. She had been beaten and stabbed 23 times in the head and chest.

The defence is arguing Schuff, 46, found herself in a life-or-death struggle with Kenny, who was deranged by a toxic combination of alcohol and prescription medication.

Judy Kenny, 54, was found dead in the kitchen of her Camden Place home in the early hours of April 10, 2017. She had been beaten and stabbed multiple times in the head and body.

Judy Kenny, 54, was found dead in the kitchen of her Camden Place home in the early hours of April 10, 2017. She had been beaten and stabbed multiple times in the head and body.

Jurors have heard Kenny had a blood-alcohol level four times the legal limit for driving when she died and had an anti-depressant in her system that can cause "homicidal ideation" in less than one per cent of users.

Schuff testified she met Kenny for the first time just hours prior to Kenny's death when Schuff helped her look for a lost dog shortly after midnight. They returned to Kenny's house to chat and have a drink.

"The big issue that I would wrestle with as a juror is: if somebody has been stabbed 23 times, how can that be self defence?" defence lawyer Matt Gould told jurors. "In what circumstances would it make sense for this to happen?"

Kenny and Schuff had no prior relationship, meaning there was no personal issue or dispute that could have sparked the killing, Gould said. Nor was Schuff suffering from a mental illness.

"You can get a response like that if a person is scared for their life and is defending themselves, that Ms. Schuff did that because she was fighting for her life," Gould said. "There is no other reasonable explanation for why this would happen."

"The big issue that I would wrestle with as a juror is: if somebody has been stabbed 23 times, how can that be self-defence? In what circumstances would it make sense for this to happen?" -Defence lawyer Matt Gould

Schuff testified she had returned from using the washroom when she put her hand on Kenny's shoulder and told her she was going home. Kenny, Schuff said, grabbed her hand and said, "You're not going anywhere."

During a subsequent struggle, Kenny brandished a knife, at which time Schuff punched her two or three times in the head.

Schuff testified the next thing she remembered she was standing in her own kitchen with her husband.

"If she were lying, why would she leave that gap?" Gould said, rejecting the Crown's contention Schuff's memory loss was a "convenient" way to avoid explaining her attack on Kenny. "A liar would fill it in with something that would make her look good... She isn't lying. She just can't remember."

Minutes after arriving back at her home, with blood still on her hands, Schuff approached a police officer on the street and said, "I'm the one you are going to want to talk to about this."

"These are the actions of someone who went through something horrible, but had nothing to hide," Gould said.

But if Kenny was the aggressor, as the defence contends, Schuff would have had ample opportunity to escape, given her level of intoxication, Crown attorney Debbie Buors said.

The evidence of an exchange student living in Kenny's basement suggests the attack took place over a period of an hour, Buors said.

Buors argued Schuff attacked Kenny after Kenny rejected Schuff's sexual advance, pointing to the fact Kenny's tights were on backwards and her shirt had been removed.

Buors said the sheer number of injuries Kenny suffered — including stomping injuries to her head, arms and shoulders, four broken ribs and internal injuries — was indicative of an enraged attacker, not someone who was defending herself.

"Judy Kenny rejected Brenda Schuff and that was enough to cause her to become unhinged and deranged," Buors said.

Buors urged jurors not to dismiss the theory Schuff made a sexual advance on Kenny.

"I'm going to suggest to you if Brenda Schuff were a man, this would be a no-brainer," she said. "There is only one common-sense conclusion, that Ms. Kenny was murdered by Brenda Schuff."

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Tuesday after receiving their final instructions from Justice Rick Saull.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

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