Late Friday night, a Winnipeg jury convicted Edmond Wayne Chartrand of second-degree murder in the July 2017 stabbing death of 29-year-old Rohn Conan Abraham.
Chartrand, 33, was convicted of a second count of attempted murder in the stabbing of his sister, Abraham’s girlfriend.
Chartrand’s name is likely less familiar than a lot of convicted killers who come through the Winnipeg Law Courts. Abraham’s death inside his Euclid Avenue apartment suite didn’t occupy much in the way of news space in 2017, nor did Chartrand’s arrest in Edmonton four months later.
Every murder is a tragedy, every life has value and most everyone who dies leaves someone in pain and mourning.
But it’s a sad truism that, in the news business, not all murders are created equal.
In 2019, Winnipeg’s bloodiest year, the city recorded 44 homicides, a sobering number far higher than any comparable city in Canada. But as high as our homicide numbers can be, we aren’t New York or New Orleans, where the pace of killings can be so unrelenting many won’t even merit a mention in a newspaper brief’s package.
But still we make choices. It’s the stories and the victims that resonate with us that guide our decision what to cover. Child victims like Tina Fontaine, Phoenix Sinclair, and Candace Derksen. Their deaths united the community in sorrow and shone a light on our common humanity. The murders of others, like 54-year-old Judy Kenny, killed April 10, 2017, just hours after meeting her Wolseley neighbour Brenda Schuff, shock us with their seeming randomness and inexplicability.
It’s a grim bit of mercenary reality that others, whose deaths are no less sorrowful, but for want of circumstance lack a compelling news hook, can be forgotten.
No reporters sat in the court gallery for Chartrand’s two week trial, Abraham’s parents the only constant watchful presence.
The circumstances of the case, as laid out by the Crown in a closing address to jurors Thursday, were almost mundane in their simplicity.
Chartrand had been staying with Abraham and his sister when, after a day "relaxing and enjoying each other’s company," Chartrand stabbed his sister three times in the chest, abdomen and arm, and then stabbed Abraham once in the chest, killing him, Crown attorney Eric Hachinski said.
The case against Chartrand was entirely circumstantial. Chartrand’s sister did not respond to a court subpoena, meaning jurors heard no evidence from anyone who witnessed the attack.
Three witnesses testified to seeing Chartrand fleeing the house after hearing screaming coming from Abraham’s suite. One witness told police he saw Chartrand lose his sandals running away and discarded a knife and cellphone. Blood found on the sandals matched Abraham’s DNA and the cellphone had an app registered in Chartrand’s name, jurors heard.
Chartrand posted comments on Facebook "that suggested he may have been responsible for what happened" and fled the city, Hachinski said. He was arrested in Edmonton the following December.
Chartrand will be sentenced at a later date. The minimum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years
Chartrand is Indigenous, as was Abraham.
That Abraham’s violent end might seem indistinguishable from the deaths of so many in the city’s marginalized population makes it no less worthy of mourning.
That so many might see it as such isn’t just a tragedy.
It’s a disgrace.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.