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This article was published 26/4/2017 (1892 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The apparent video-recorded killing of a teenaged girl in Sagkeeng First Nation last week is just the latest example of horrific crimes being deliberately caught on camera.
Nearly two years before the deadly attack, a similar situation played out in another Manitoba community. But unlike the high-profile Sagkeeng slaying, this one in The Pas stayed under the public radar. There was no major police news release or extensive media coverage. The Free Press learned of the case and its resolution Wednesday through justice sources and reviewed the audio transcript from last year’s sentencing hearing, in which details of the June 2015 incident were put on the record. They have not been reported on anywhere until now.
While the crimes in Sagkeeng and The Pas may be different, there are some common threads: a young female victim at a party, teen attackers and a gruesome assault all recorded on video.
"It was just so hard to grasp. I wonder why anybody would think of doing such a thing to a human being," the mother of the 16-year-old victim in The Pas told court last year.
What happened to her daughter is almost unimaginable. The girl was at a house party with several friends when she passed out after consuming vodka. Several teen boys were at the party, including two she had previously dated. One of them, a 19-year-old named Austin Fourre, became enraged "when he heard she’d been making out with another male," said provincial court Judge Larry Allen.
'Her pants immediately ignited'
Fourre and two other boys, who were 15 and 17 at the time, went into the bedroom where she was asleep and began calling her vulgar, disparaging names while rolling video. One of the teens took a bottle of Old Spice body spray and sprayed some on the girl’s pants, then tried to ignite it with a lighter.
A small flame erupted but was quickly doused by another teen at the party who told them to leave her alone. She remained passed out.
"The three began to work each other up again and laugh about the original fire," said Allen.
With the camera still rolling, Fourre then grabbed the body spray and used his lighter to "create a blowtorch," which he then pressed against the victim’s crotch area. The result was catastrophic.
"Her pants immediately ignited, and a large flame erupted," said Allen. "The flame was so intense it burned a hole through her jeans."
Month in hospital
The victim woke up in agony and ran downstairs, yelling, "they burned me, they burned me" to others at the party. She walked to her cousin’s house down the street, where paramedics were called. She was rushed to the local hospital, then air-lifted to Winnipeg for treatment.
She spent nearly a month in hospital after suffering major third and second-degree burns to her vagina and buttocks. She underwent two surgeries and skin grafts and is now permanently scarred.
"How could anybody do this? It was really hard for me to see this as a mother, your child going through such excruciating pain. I wish I could take it away," the victim’s mother told court in her impact statement at the sentencing hearing. "Just listening to her scream, there was nothing I could do to help her."
The girl also submitted what Allen called a "remarkable" impact statement in which she spoke about how she is trying to use this tragedy to "make me a stronger person... I’m going to continue to see myself as beautiful despite the scarring.’
"It’s full of a young person trying to make a positive out of a negative," the judge said.
RCMP arrested Fourre and the two youth accused the day after the incident. They continued to party even after the girl fled, "continuing to joke and laugh of the events of the night," said Allen.
Fourre pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. The Crown was seeking up to five years in prison, while his lawyer asked for one year of time spent in custody. He had no prior criminal record and regrets the damage he caused, court was told. He blamed excessive alcohol use and poor anger-management skills.
"Obviously, the impact on the victim was considerable. This was an offence of excessive violence that caused gratuitous harm," Allen said while sentencing Fourre last year. "The victim was a helpless 16-year-old girl unable to defend herself from the attack and the humiliation she suffered. The nature of this injury has led to an additional amount of humiliation. There was extreme callousness and a lack of regard for the victim in this case. She is now left scarred for life."
30 months in jail
Allen ultimately settled on a 30-month prison sentence for Fourre. However, with time-and-a-half credit for his one-year of pre-trial custody, he was left with only about a year left behind bars. He will be eligible for release later this spring.
As for the two youths, the one who initially tried burning the girl was convicted of assault with a weapon and received probation in addition to a short period of time in custody. The other youth who stood by and held the camera but didn’t actively participate in the attack was found not guilty, defence lawyer John Skinner said.
The victim continues to recover from her injuries, including frequent physiotherapy, and may require additional surgeries, court was told.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.