May 26, 2019

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Murdered woman's childhood friend reveals details of victim's past

"I want people to know Jen was somebody"

<p>The home at 38 Forest Lake Drive in Waverly Heights where the remains of a woman's body were found in a barrel.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The home at 38 Forest Lake Drive in Waverly Heights where the remains of a woman's body were found in a barrel.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/2/2017 (822 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jennifer Barrett had a life in Sudbury, Ont.

The 42-year-old woman went to a local college, became a nurse’s aide, had a job in a nursing home, a son in his late teens and a troubled history with the teen’s father who now stands accused of killing her and stuffing her body in a barrel.

Those details emerged this week, after news reports of Barrett’s grisly murder moved across mainstream and social media over the holiday weekend.

Barrett was beaten to death over several days in August, and her body was put into a 45-gallon drum barrel along with “several chemical agents which hastened the decomposition,” police said when they made the homicide public last Friday, along with the arrests.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/2/2017 (822 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jennifer Barrett had a life in Sudbury, Ont.

The 42-year-old woman went to a local college, became a nurse’s aide, had a job in a nursing home, a son in his late teens and a troubled history with the teen’s father who now stands accused of killing her and stuffing her body in a barrel.

<p>Jennifer Barrett</p>

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Jennifer Barrett

Those details emerged this week, after news reports of Barrett’s grisly murder moved across mainstream and social media over the holiday weekend.

Barrett was beaten to death over several days in August, and her body was put into a 45-gallon drum barrel along with "several chemical agents which hastened the decomposition," police said when they made the homicide public last Friday, along with the arrests.

Three people who shared a Waverley Heights home with Barrett, whose decomposing remains were found in a barrel on the property, face charges in her death and the effort to destroy the body.

Perez Adaryll Cleveland, 43, a Canadian citizen born in the United States, has been charged with first-degree murder. His former common-law wife, Jessica Elizabeth Reid, 34, of Winnipeg, and Holley Alyssa Sullivan, 28, of Calgary, have both been charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

In a phone interview from Sudbury, a childhood friend described Barrett as friendly and "bubbly." She was a hockey mom, had enrolled after high school at a local post-secondary college and trained to be a nurse’s aide.

She spent years with no apparent trace of Cleveland in her daily life, the friend said.

The friend, who asked her name be withheld to protect her family, said the two women both shared a troubled history with Cleveland, who was born in the United States but was a Canadian citizen. He bounced around and landed in Sudbury a couple of decades ago, the friend disclosed.

"This isn’t just about some girl he hooked up with in Winnipeg. They go back more than 20 years. I want people to know Jen was somebody. I think people should know this," the woman said.

<p>Perez Adaryll Cleveland</p>

SUPPLIED

Perez Adaryll Cleveland

She went on to say she believed Barrett and Cleveland had not been together for years.

She recounted how 20 years ago she and Barrett both fell for the "ladies’ man," who had a job as a university radio station DJ in Sudbury.

She used to meet Cleveland at Barrett’s apartment, while Barrett was working as a live-in aide for a client and only discovered later on they were lovers, too.

Cleveland fathered a child with both women, said the friend who concluded Cleveland was a manipulator, with abusive tendencies.

"I didn’t know his true colours until I was pregnant and... when I told him I was keeping it, he threatened me," she said.

Before her own son was born, the woman said she filed a restraining order that led to Cleveland’s arrest and a short jail term. They spoke off and on by phone in later years because of their son but she never spent time with him again, she said.

By then, she knew him well. Cleveland had confided his own troubled childhood, growing up with a single mother. She said she knew his history of drug use and was well aware of his criminal record for assaulting women.

Barrett was apparently following the same pattern back then with Cleveland, avoiding him while raising her son.

Barrett attended her son’s hockey games and worked in a personal care home in the Sudbury area.

Barrett would have been about 18 or 19 when she first started hanging out with Cleveland and she got pregnant in her early 20s, about the same time two other Sudbury women were also seeing Cleveland, the friend said.

Cleveland fathered two children with each of the other two women, the woman said, adding that Cleveland is believed to have fathered six children in the Sudbury area, including Barrett’s son.

She recalled how Cleveland reached out to each of the women he had kids with in Sudbury, around the same time in 2012. She recalled the phone calls when he tried to unsuccessfully to rekindle their relationship by long distance from Ottawa.

"He called me, and another girl told me he called her. He may have been trying to get (back) with a bunch of women and maybe Jennifer fell for it," the woman said. "That’s what I don’t understand," said the childhood friend. "What woman would allow her man to have another woman in the same house... she must have been messed up."

In the months leading up to the discovery of Barrett’s remains in a barrel in the backyard of a home on Forest Lake Drive where the four — Barrett, Cleveland, Reid and Sullivan — lived, police were familiar with the address. They’d been called there on a domestic complaint by Reid, who claimed she was Cleveland’s common-law partner.

And last week, police made a point of emphasizing that one of the most puzzling factors in the case was that nobody knew Barrett was missing. She was not reported missing by anyone and nobody appeared to be looking for her, police said.

In fact, police traced part of the delay in disclosing the murder to the difficulty in confirming Barrett’s identity, which took forensic DNA analysis to secure.

The childhood friend has no idea if Barrett’s family reported her missing and wonders if Barrett’s decision to follow Cleveland caused a final break with her family.

Barrett’s parents are reported to still live in Val Caron, a largely francophone bedroom community about 15 kilometres north of Sudbury, along with her son.

A woman who answered the only listing for Barrett in Val Caron declined comment. "The cops in Sudbury told us if people ask us, we had a choice... and my husband and I have decided we will not talk to anyone. We want privacy," said the woman before ending the call.

A spokesman with the Manitoba Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed Wednesday the Barrett’s remains had been released to her family at some point prior to last week’s arrests.

In September, police asked for the public’s help locating Cleveland in a domestic case involving Reid.

Reid applied for a protection order that was served in December when Winnipeg police arrested Cleveland on an assault charge involving Reid. He was in custody when police laid a first-degree murder charge against him last week.

— with files from Kevin Rollason

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

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