Before she died, a 42-year-old Winnipeg woman endured days of torture in the basement of a Waverley Heights home, a jury heard Thursday.
The grisly details of Jennifer Barrett's death were recounted by her "sister wife" who testified at the first-degree murder trial of Perez Adaryll Cleveland that she witnessed the woman's last moments and helped dispose of the body.
Jessica Reid, 36, told the jury she was one of six women living with Cleveland when Barrett was killed in August 2016. From video cameras set up in the house and yard, to email monitoring, to an array of weapons, a supply of highly addictive drugs, and allegations of domestic violence and torture, she detailed how he controlled her and the other women. Even after she escaped the house at 38 Forest Lake Dr. where Barrett was killed, Reid said she was too scared to report Barrett's death.
Cleveland has pleaded not guilty to murdering Barrett, and it will be up to the jury to decide what to believe. On Thursday, jurors heard allegations Cleveland was trafficking methamphetamine and violently assaulting women. Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal told jurors they "can't conclude that he is a person more likely than not to commit murder" based on those allegations.
Cleveland's defence lawyer, Steven Brennan, suggested Thursday it was Reid who physically assaulted Barrett, which she denied. She said she wasn't responsible for Barrett's death, but believed the other woman died after suffering a beating that lasted for days — similar to what she herself endured at Cleveland's hands.
Apart from his adult daughter, Cleveland had five "wives." Reid told the jury she only found out about the other women after she moved in with Cleveland in May 2016. They met the previous summer, when Cleveland became her meth dealer. He was "charming," she said, and they started dating.
"I just felt like I had nowhere to go. Plus, with my addiction, you just feel lost," Reid testified.
In July 2016, the group moved into the two-storey, six-bedroom home in Waverley Heights. The lease was under Barrett's name. The 42-year-old woman had previously tried to run away, only to be whipped by Cleveland, Reid said.
There was little food in the house — the residents lived on fast food — and the women weren't allowed to leave on their own or speak to anyone who came to the house. Reid said she had no phone or contact with the outside world, except for access to her email account, which she would only look at in front of Cleveland. The home computer was linked to a television monitor so Cleveland could view any activity.
"It just became, I guess, a sad, normal thing there," she said.
Reid said she lost her job — "because he beat me up and I didn't want to go" — but whatever money she had would go to Cleveland.
On Aug. 17, 2016, Reid said Cleveland falsely accused her of cheating on him. At the time, Reid said she and Cleveland were both using meth — she was begging him for the drug and smoking up at least every couple of hours, using 1.5 grams of the highly addictive drug per day.
Reid said Cleveland punched her, beat her with a golf club, hit her with a hammer, burned her with heated vice grips, threatened her with a Taser and a crossbow, and stabbed her with a machete.
The torture lasted for three or four days, until, in an attempt to end the beating, she told him she kissed a co-worker. Then, she said, Cleveland turned his attention to Barrett.
Reid said she was still in the basement when Cleveland began beating Barrett, although she didn't see the beating. Reid said he told her to turn up the volume on some music "so they didn't hear her screaming or yelling, so the neighbours didn't hear."
Cleveland had a hammer, knives and an extension cord, which Reid said he used for whipping the women, when he went into the basement laundry room with Barrett. The beating continued after Barrett tried to run away and Cleveland went out looking for her. She'd been hiding in a parked car in their driveway, Reid said.
On the night Barrett died, Reid said she saw her emerge from the laundry room and stumble to the basement bathroom. She looked dizzy and there was blood coming from her temples, Reid said.
"She sat on the toilet and she fell over," Reid said.
Barrett never woke up — even though Cleveland poured water on her and jolted her with a Taser, Reid said.
Cleveland "panicked," Reid said, and ordered her and one of the other women to get rid of Barrett's body. Cleveland went to a hotel for a couple of weeks, taking one of the women with him, Reid said, "because he told us that he couldn't handle it."
Reid testified she helped put Barrett's body into a barrel, which would be filled with chemicals. By the time police found the barrel in December 2016, it was too late to determine how Barrett died.
"I was just doing what I was told," she said.
In September 2016, fearing another beating, Reid ran to a neighbour's house and called police. She reported Cleveland's abuse against her, but she didn't mention Barrett's death — even when an officer asked her how many women were still in the house.
"I just said Jenny left. I didn't go into detail," she said.
Reid was arrested in February 2017 and charged with accessory to murder. She's awaiting her trial on that charge and said Thursday police and prosecutors haven't promised her anything in exchange for her testimony.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 5:01 PM CDT: corrects street name
6:41 PM: Full write through, adds photos.