A three-year-old boy was left clinging to life, after his throat was slit in a monstrous attack at a North End rooming house early Wednesday.
The victim's family said Hunter Haze Straight-Smith remained in hospital in critical condition. Multiple sources named the suspect in the attack as Dan Jensen, the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Hunter's mother, Clarice Smith.
Winnipeg police would only say Wednesday they were searching for a single male suspect, and they didn’t believe the attack was random. They did not announce any arrests or charges.
The Free Press was told by members of the victim’s family that the suspect showed up at the home, beat up Smith, and then stabbed Hunter in the throat before fleeing the scene on foot.
Jensen is on bail, following an incident on July 20, when he’s alleged to have assaulted Smith with a weapon and uttered threats. He's charged with four criminal offences in connection with that incident.
As a result, a no-contact order was recently issued, instructing Jensen not to go near Smith or her home.
"Words cannot even begin to describe the sadness around this event. It’s an unthinkable event and it has to affect the entire city, not just the involved family," Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jay Murray said.
"We don’t believe this was a random incident and the family is currently with the child in hospital right now... I’ve been told the child is in grave condition at this time."
Police were called to the rooming house at 390 Pritchard Ave. at 2:35 a.m., after receiving a report a child had been seriously assaulted.
Neighbours who spoke to the Free Press said they’d heard a man screaming before police arrived. Eventually, the sound of a woman screaming also pierced the night.
"I just heard the screaming. It was like 2:15 (a.m.), but it’s the 'hood. You hear screams every night. It was a man screaming, I thought he was drunk," said Angel Thomas, who lives next door.
“We just stood and watched, and we saw an ambulance show up. And then from there on out, we saw them bring out a little stretcher, something to put a body on, a small one.” - Meranda Houle
Meranda Houle, who lives across the street, said she woke up after police cruisers and ambulances descended on the scene.
"We woke up to sirens out front and a bunch of cops. We came to look out and we saw the cops running in through the door," Houle said.
"We just stood and watched, and we saw an ambulance show up. And then from there on out, we saw them bring out a little stretcher, something to put a body on, a small one."
Hunter’s aunt, Roxanne Smith, told the Free Press her sister and Jensen had been dating on-and-off for six months.
In addition to the four outstanding criminal charges from July, Jensen has two other assault charges on his record: one from January 2018 and another from December 2017, as well as other less serious offences.
Wednesday's attack comes on the heels of other acts of violence on Winnipeg youth.
On Saturday night, 14-year-old Jakira Eastman-Moore was stabbed to death at a Halloween party on the 100 block of Kinver Avenue. An 18-year-old woman was also stabbed, but is expected to live.
On Tuesday, police announced they’d charged a 16-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman in the attack.
On Sunday, police were called to the scene of a "shotgun attack" at a home on the 400 block of Flora Avenue. Four people — including a child under the age of two — were injured; all of them are expected to survive.
"It’s very unusual, I think, for one of these incidents to happen, let alone three of them within close proximity to each other. It’s incredibly rare for us," Murray said.
"It can be incredibly tough for officers, as well, especially those who have young children themselves. Dealing with these types of incidents can be very tough."
Anyone with information connected to the attack on Hunter is asked to contact investigators at 204-986-6219.
Police are expected to release additional information on the case Thursday.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.