Roulette’s legal chips dwindle

(The multi-plex where gang membersHenderson and Baptiste were killed on Jan 31, 2009)
(The Maryland Street multi-plex where gang members Jesse Henderson and Dennis Baptiste were killed on Jan 31, 2009)

It had all the usual signs of many riveting, yet unbelievably tragic, premeditated murder cases.

Two young, gang-linked men, Jesse Henderson and Dennis Baptiste — mysteriously and savagely cut down in the prime of their lives inside a Maryland Street four-plex after being seen at a cocaine-fuelled party at an Exchange District theme hotel.

A fire set in what appeared to be a failed attempt to destroy evidence at the crime scene. A missing TV set. Some, but not tons, of physical evidence to go on.

Blood everywhere.

And then came months and months of waiting for an arrest as Winnipeg police worked all kinds of different angles to try and get to the truth of things.

Such was the visible the backdrop to Kenneth Roulette’s trial, which ended in his conviction on two counts of first-degree murder.

But behind the scenes, one of the more interesting legal battles I’ve seen was playing out.

In June 2013, Roulette sought to have his charges tossed out, alleging a failure by prosecutors to disclose evidence in the case had effectively ruined his chance at defending against the charges.

The unusual move — in which Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar found there was delay caused by the Crown’s slowness to disclose — didn’t work and the trial went ahead a few months later.

The key evidence against Roulette was testimony from two unsavory witnesses, one of whom was (by time of trial) a deceased crack addict and naturally couldn’t be cross-examined beyond what defence lawyer Greg Brodsky was able to do at a preliminary hearing when Russell Glow was still alive and in witness protection.

It came as zero surprise to me that Roulette quickly launched an appeal after being convicted given the quirks in the case.

But this week, he found out he’d lost that fight too. Here’s Court of Appeal Justice Alan MacInnes’s reasons why that’s so.

It remains to be seen if Brodsky will take the case to the Supreme Court in hopes of winning a new trial for Roulette.

Chad Davis murder trial: Charging forward

Chad Davis
Chad Davis

[Reblogged from the Winnipeg Free Press ‘Crime Scene‘ blog.]

In any jury trial, the judge’s reading of the charge and her instructions to jurors are right up there with the most important of tasks and developments in the court process.

In a complex case, the crafting of an appropriate charge can take many days, many re-drafts and much collaboration and input from the lawyers from all sides.

In the Davis case, it was no different.

The beauty of the charge is not only does it lay out the law for jurors and the guide it provides them to try and reach a just verdict, it also offers a review of the most salient points of evidence from all sides of the case.

It’s this key document and these words from Justice Brenda Keyser that jurors took with them to their room to secretly deliberate the first-degree murder case against Corey Tymchyshyn and Kristopher Brincheski.

Both men have now signalled their intentions to appeal their convictions, and Brincheski, his sentence.

One of Tymchyshyn’s complaints to the appeals court is that he feels Keyser’s instructions in reference to the evidence went off the rails and contributed in some way to his wrongful conviction.

We’ll see how that claim pans out down the road.

This will be my last post on the Davis trial, barring any urgent matters that might crop up.

I had more planned, but given the appeals are forthcoming, It’s likely better use of time to focus on that instead of dredging up stuff from the past that obviously didn’t have much relevance at the trial proper.

I’ll revisit that decision should an unexpected issue involving some undlsclosed element crop up during the appeals process.

It probably goes without saying that through this blog, I’ve hopefully been able to at least try and give readers a comprehensive sense of the Crown’s case, the evidence presented and the amount of dogged work RCMP and Winnipeg police did to figure out what happened and prove it in court.

To me, what better way to cap the trial coverage than to give people the one thing they’d need to read to understand how it came together, the serious issues at stake and an official review of all that was disclosed publicly?

Cheers.

Chad Davis murder trial: the evidence in week three

[Reblogged from the Winnipeg Free Press ‘Crime Scene’ blog]

RCMP Map of Cell Towers relating to Davis investigation
RCMP Map of Cell Towers relating to Davis investigation

Two men on trial for a brutal crime: The alleged premeditated murder of a handsome young Winnipeg man, Chad Davis, who went missing for months and was found July 23, 2008 in a barrel pulled from the Lee River.

Corey Tymchyshyn, 37, and Kristopher Brincheski, 31, are accused and presumed innocent.

This is a comprehensive recap of the second week of evidence heard in this complex and unusual case.

First week recap can be found here. Second week here:

Allegations made in the Crown’s opening argument can be found here [required reading, really].

Stories summing up this week’s developments are here and here.

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 11.06.24 AM

[Note about the phone record evidence: Pictured this week is a timeline chart provided by the Crown to the jury as created by an RCMP intelligence analyst at the direction of the Crown. When considering this evidence, the timeline is a helpful guide to what the Crown deemed relevant to the Davis investigation, but is not a comprehensive listing of all the cellphone activity in the timeframe described. A careful reading of the cross-examination of the RCMP analystbears this out. I have truncated her direct testimony to some degree because it was so detailed and referred to events already mapped out on the chart provided.]

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 11.07.32 AM

 

 

 

 

 

Day 12
Allan Hallson

 

  • 55 years old, a carpenter and “jack of all trades”
  • In 2012, was living at 1091 Manitoba Ave.
  • Usually drank every day after work.
  • Five to six beers was his normal routine.
  • “No it doesn’t” affect his memory.
  • “I had a drinking problem” [in the past]
  • “I drink very little now.”
  • After November 2012, he got it in hand.
  • “A bit nervous” at testifying in court, before a jury.
  • Has 1999 conviction for driving over .08
  • Has April 2000 conviction for assault causing bodily harm and fail to comply with undertaking.
  • Has two kids, including a daughter, CH
  • In Spring 2012, wanted to sell a mitre saw, daughter helped him put ad on Kijiji.
  • “Corey” (Tymchyshyn) was interested, he phoned, came down to look at it.
  • That turned into a 1.5-2 hour conversation, talked about construction.
  • Tymchyshyn seemed interested in hiring him, sold him saw, went to work for him three weeks later.
  • He only learned Tymchyshyn’s last name later on.
  • Early June 2012, started working for him, home exteriors, “all over Winnipeg,” and some jobs outside.
  • Hours varied from 8 to 12-14 a day.
  • He didn’t have car nor driver’s licence. Tymchyshyn picked him up and drove him home.
  • Usually the two were by themselves in the morning, sometimes one other worker. Same at night.
  • He was alone with Tymchyshyn for 45 mins to an hour each working day. They’d talk, have coffee in the car.
  • Tymchyshyn mentioned things, doing “grow-ops” and what he had done to a person.
  • “He had shot a person,” put him in a barrel, put him in a river by a cottage.
  • “This person was stealing from him.”
  • No name. “All’s he mentioned it was his friend.”
  • Didn’t believe him at first, started to later “because of the threats that were coming to me.”
  • He understood Tymchyshyn to be on bail – he had a “probation officer” that came to a work site.
  • “That made me start to believe what he had told me.”
  • Says he was in shock. “I didn’t believe it at first and then it was coming true.”
  • On a couple of occasions, his own employees disclosed to him they had committed murders.
  • After working with Tymchyshyn for a few months, plan was made to “start a grow-op” at Manitoba Ave. home.
  • “Bugging me to do it, to do it – I know he needed money.” He bother him several times a day.
  • Also promised was work on a machinery business, meaning “steady employment.”
  • Tymchyshyn said Hallson would get money on the second round of growing.
  • The first round’s take would go to his lawyer to pay her, Tymchyshyn told him.
  • They didn’t talk about what he’d get.
  • The house was a rental.
  • He built “couple of rooms” with walls in basement, walled off furnace and laundry area.
  • Used studs and OSB “plywood” to wall them off.
  • Also purchased was “white poly” to line the walls and floors and ceiling.
  • “For the heat, the light – to make sure it was uniform in the room.”
  • “I know it was for light.”
  • It was Tymchyshyn who handled the special lights.
  • A door in wall stopped people from seeing inside.
  • “The poly came up the door too.”
  • “They were special, special lights, they had big bulbs, sort of a shield over them”
  • They gave off a bluish or pinkish glow.
  • “There was 100 plants brought in” by Tymchyshyn.
  • Tymchyshyn had a key to the house.
  • “I was there at night, but Corey looked after the plants.”

[Justice Brenda Keyser issues “special instruction” to jury at this point, saying they had to decide for themselves if Tymchyshyn actually made those comments, to use common sense to do this. They are not to apply any findings from this evidence towards Brincheski. Also, the evidence is only being presented to give them context, and is not to be used by them to imply that Tymchyshyn “is the sort of person” who would commit the crime he’s charged with because of his involvement in the grow as alleged.]
Hallson:

 

  • His daughter, CH, would drop by sometimes, to do laundry for him.
  • “She seen what was going on,” in the basement.
  • “She was upset about it.”
  • Says his girlfriend’s name was “Mary Jane,” she was staying with him.
  • Sometimes he’d have people over to socialize, to party.
  • There was a confrontation with Tymchyshyn regarding this activity.
  • Tymchyshyn became “very upset.”
  • “My attitude changed. I wanted out. Wanted nothing to do with it no more.”
  • In Nov. 2012 – CH shows up at his house. “She was very upset. She was crying.”
  • They talked about the grow op.
  • At first, they were alone, but “Mary Jane” was upstairs.
  • Tymchyshyn then became involved and the confrontation “evolved,” voices were raised, tempers
  • Tymchyshyn said “I had to leave the house,” hand over keys and cellphone. Warned to not go to police.
  • “He said that he shot his friend and put him in a barrel, so he said I’d end up in the same way,”
  • Said he had body bags in his truck. “Garbage bags to dispose of the body,
  • He left the house that night.
  • He was eventually charged in connection with the grow op.
  • There’s no deal with federal or provincial Crown attorneys for his testimony.
  • Confirms wanted to sell his saw, daughter put ad online, Tymchyshyn responded.
  • Yes, they spoke for 1-1.5 hours after meeting each other.
  • The delay in starting work for Tymchyshyn was that he had jobs of his own to finish up.
  • Working for Tymchyshyn would provide “steady employment.”
  • He had never met Tymchyshyn before. “Seemed like a nice guy,” he agrees.
  • No concerns at that time about him.
  • The times they worked at jobs varied.
  • There were two occasions that Tymchyshyn talked about a barrel.
  • He can’t say what led to that conversation. “Just came up. Not sure how it started.”
  • Tymchyshyn “talked a lot.”
  • Their in -car conversations were mostly friendly, sometimes not.
  • The first ‘barrel’ conversation “just came about” at a time when problems with him hadn’t started.
  • It was before the grow-op.
  • Agrees second confrontation was in presence of daughter, that it was unpleasant and angry, “tempers flared.”
  • He was angry. Tymchyshyn was angry.
  • Repeats how he was told he’d end up in a barrel like “his friend.”
  • He left the house, and yes, that was an indication of fear. He lost weight because of the stress of the whole situation.
  • “I had to leave.”
  • Says he’s had a “significant change” in his drinking.
  • Would not agree he’s a “chronic alcoholic.”
  • In earlier testimony agrees he said “a few beers” to him was 10, but that doesn’t make him pass out.
  • Yes, once in a while had a beer before work in the morning. “Not everyday, not all the time.”
  • It’s not fair to say he went on drinking binges.
  • No, the people he invited to the house were not “horrible people.”
  • “People drank – I don’t know what drugs they did.” [People at the house he’d invite over.]
  • “I’m responsible when I’m drinking, yes.”
  • Says he does not exaggerate or lie. “No I don’t.”
  • Yes, it wasn’t just a saw he was selling online, there were other items too, including a tool rack and a pool table.
  • No, he doesn’t think “crazy thought” that Tymchyshyn hunted him down on Kijiji.
  • On Nov. 2, 2012, he gave two statements, and yes, testified at a preliminary hearing in Feb. 2013.
  • Doesn’t recall telling cops in first statement he was pissed off at the amount of money Tymchyshyn said he was
  • making.
  • The amount he made with Tymchyshyn’s employment varied.
  • It’s possible Tymchyshyn made a lot of money every day – depends on the job.
  • Says he used to own a farm but wound up penniless on the streets. The $250,000 property was “tied up in the
  • courts.”
  • Yes, he told police he’s personally fought Hells Angels and Zig Zag Crew members, and one time, a fight with a
  • 300 pound Mad Cowz member left him with a split nose.
  • Says “no” when asked sarcastically if he’s also fought the Indian Posse.
  • Tymchyshyn knew of his son and daughter.
  • No, “not very much” did Tymchyshyn discuss his personal affairs.
  • He knew Tymchyshyn was on charge for murder because Tymchyshyn told him, plus the curfew he was on and the probation officer turning up.
  • “I wasn’t a drunk.”
  • Yes, Tymchyshyn said the shooting he did happened in the country. The buddy was stealing crop in the country and got shot with a rifle. “He said he shot him.”
  • Yes, it was months before talking to police that Tymchyshyn said this.
  • “I’m not sure how long I worked for him before he told me (first disclosure.)
  • “He told other people” as well, including Vern. “Vern knew about it, yes.”
  • He gave cops Vern’s name so they could follow up.
  • “His wife’s name was Nepinak – she was in a landfill somewhere.”
  • He doesn’t remember names of his own employees who disclosed to him they had murdered.
  • That’s because he’s had “so many” people work for him over the years.


Defence [Campbell] – so he tells you he killed the last guy who did a grow op with him and you decide to do a grow-op with him?

 

  • Yes, because Tymchyshyn needed money, that he could help him get tools.
  • That $20,000 would be coming down the pipe from a future harvest.
  • “I’m not getting no deals.”
  • Yes, he asked police at first for a deal but they refused, said they couldn’t.
  • He didn’t recall telling police he was crazy and that his testimony wouldn’t stand up in court.
  • Shown police statement, he says that comment was just “joking around” “a sense of humour.”
  • “All the things that went on that day, was just joking around.”
  • “It wasn’t something serious.”
  • The cop was also laughing with him.

 
C.H.

 

  • “Very nervous.”
  • Having to testify has been on her mind.
  • She has no criminal record.
  • Allan Hallson is her dad.
  • In Spring 2012, helped him put ads online to sell things. “He can’t operate a computer.”
  • Believes he ended up selling most of his stuff.
  • He was working with Tymchyshyn after the ads were posted, doing “general contracting” construction.
  • Met Tymchyshyn for first time at father’s Manitoba Avenue home.
  • It varied how often she’d visit there. She did his laundry when his washer broke.
  • Her first impression of Tymchyshyn was that he “seemed like a decent guy – nice. He always helped my dad out.”
  • Tymchyshyn drove him to work.
  • Her dad tells stories that may not be true.
  • “He likes to exaggerate the truth,” but isn’t worried about him being a “chronic liar.”
  • At Manitoba Ave. home, saw a light “a UV light .. like a purplish blue light … there was walls built – new walls
  • built.”
  • She thought it was a grow op, “later on” seeing plants. She confronted her father, was “displeased” and told him this.
  • She once saw Tymchyshyn at the house and the grow-op came up.

[Justice Keyser issues yet another warning to the jury at this time, basically as noted earlier, above.]

 

  • In summer or fall 2012, she went to Junior’s restaurant to meet Tymchyshyn.
  • “Corey asked me to meet him.”
  • She had his number and he hears in case her dad couldn’t be reached.
  • She texted him to se if he’d heard from dad, he called her back.
  • “He said my dad was in a lot of trouble.”
  • They set the meet at a McDonalds, but then moved it to Juniors on McPhillips.
  • “He had asked me if I had ever googled him.”
  • She hadn’t – didn’t know how to spell his last name.
  • The restaurant was “fairly empty,” nobody around their booth to overhear.
  • He seemed “kind of anxious and upset.”
  • “He was upset that my dad was telling too many people about the grow op.”
  • They talked for maybe an hour about a few things.
  • “He told me the last person that fucked up ended up in a barrel.”
  • She didn’t know who he was referring to. It was clear to her that’s what he said.
  • “It was an odd thing to say. It was a very definite statement.”
  • She saw the comment being made in relation to too many people finding out about the grow-op.
  • He said dad wasn’t doing a good job at the grow op.
  • She texted him, he provided last name so she googled him.
  • After Juniors, they went to Manitoba Avenue, she got a chance to talk with dad first.
  • She then saw a confrontation between Tymchyshyn and her dad.
  • Her dad left the house “at the direction of” Tymchyshyn.
  • She called a friend who put her in touch with RCMP. On Oct. 29, 2012 she met with them.
  • The comments about the barrel and their import: “I felt our lives were in danger.”
  • Confirms her initial impression was Tymchyshyn was decent guy.
  • Was “late fall” when that impression changed.
  • Was concerned enough about events that she called RCMP.
  • It was the barrel comment that triggered in her a need to call police.
  • “I felt our lives were in danger.”
  • Yes, she told RCMP she felt dad was “a major alcoholic” at the time.
  • Yes, told them he liked to exaggerate stories.
  • Yes, told them he goes on drinking binges and isn’t always responsible when he drinks.
  • Yes, told them he was always hard up for money.
  • Yes, told them that he said “$20,000 in two months sounds pretty good to me,” to her.
  • Yes, he was hanging with some pretty horrible people at this time.
  • Yes, those people used cocaine and drank.
  • Yes, it was a matter of weeks between seeing the grow op and going to police.
  • Yes, part of reason Tymchyshyn was upset was her dad was showing other people the grow-op.

Day 12
A female juror is excused from duty for a medical issue. The panel is now standing at five men and five women. Jurors are informed of the woman’s dismissal on the record.
PHONE RECORD EVIDENCE PUT BEFORE JURY through:
David Bmak of Rogers Communications
Don Calpito of Telus
Note: the evidence of these gentlemen was largely administrative and foundational to inform jury generally regarding cellular communications, cell towers, SMS messaging.
Through them, jurors were provided with the phone records of the Rogers BlackBerry believed to be used by Chad Davis and the Telus records of the cellphone believed to be used by Corey Tymchyshyn between Feb. 1 and Feb. 23, 2008.


It’s important to note: It’s impossible to really tell if a call or text these phones produced was actually made by the person the device is linked to. For example, we see through coming evidence that appears George Lancaster [see prior evidence summary] used Tymchyshyn’s device on the afternoon of Feb. 6, 2008 to telephone his ex wife and his bank.

Notable, from Calpito’s evidence:

 

  • Telus’s phone records: “As far as I’m aware, they’re extremely accurate.”
  • There was no Telus service available in Lac du Bonnet in 2008.

Julie Tillotson

 

  • A criminal intelligence analyst with RCMP D Division
  • Was tasked by serious crime unit officers with sifting through “overwhelming” amount of phone data in the case.
  • Has bachelor’s degree in criminology, an MA in sociology, needs dissertation to finish PhD.
  • Analysed records from Davis’s blackberry cellphone 204-296-6036.
  • Provided a listing of cellphone tower sites.
  • 995-8224 was the number associated to Tymchyshyn.
  • She prepared a “timeline” chart [see photos] on direction of the Crown, for the jury.
  • The range of the chart is from Feb. 4-7, 2008, they don’t capture all calls or tower hits or texts, only select “notations” from that time period.
  • She explains timeline chart, how the lines move horizontally through time.
  • She does not know who was actually using the devices, only that raw data shows contact from number to number.

[Defer to chart photographs to understand this – she takes jury through specific items on timeline.]
February 6, 2008, select call records show (times reflect when call hit a cell tower)
(Key: DS Cell/Landline = Brincheski’s wife’s landline, cell; CT = Tymchyshyn cell; CD = Davis cell)

 

  • An incoming call from DS landline to to CT at 8:30 a.m., 28 seconds duration.
  • Outgoing from CT to 204-831-658# at 10:26:38 for 13 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to CD 10:27:20, 14 seconds.
  • Incoming to CT’s phone from 204-831-658#, 327 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to DS landline 10:33:44, 24 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to CD 10:50:59, 31 seconds.
  • TEXT: sent from CT to CD at 10:56:25 – “call me before you come, Kirk mite come by before you.”
  • Outgoing from CT to CD at 11:05:55, 31 seconds.
  • TEXT from CT to CD at 11:07:08 – “Bring a splif.”
  • TEXT from CT to CD at 11:09:49 – “don’t bring poop here.”
  • Incoming from CD to CT at 11:18:49, 59 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to DS cell 11:33:40, 40 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to CD at 12:21:06, 8 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to CD at 12:26:51, 24 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to DS cell 12:27:22, 10 seconds.
  • TEXT from CD’s cell hits a tower at 650 Raleigh St. at 12:41:45 (content unavailable)
  • “All further calls go directly to voice mail” – regarding CD’s cell.
  • From Feb. 3 to this date, 16 calls of CD went to voicemail. After this, all 186 calls go to voicemail.
  • “After this day, all calls go directly to voicemail.”
  • CD’s phone was never picked up again after 12:26:51
  • “There was no outgoing activity off that device after that time.”
  • TEXT from CT to DS cell at 12:43:55 – “we will be in soon.”
  • TEXT from CT to 204-810-2081 – “he’s wearing a hat don’t miss.”
  • DS Cell number was 204-801-2081.
  • The 810 number was never dialled by CT’s phone before or after this date. It was the only time the 810 number came up in the data she had.
  • Outgoing from CT at 13:13:08 to S. Lancaster, 23 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT at 13:19:10 to Assiniboine Credit Union, 88 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT at 13:31:54 to Assinibojne Credit Union, 62 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT at 13:36:38 to S. Lancaster, 28 seconds.
  • Incoming to CT from DS Cell at 13:47:13, 9 seconds.
  • Outgoing from CT to ? at 14:12:39, 47 seconds
  • Outgoing from CT to ? at 14:17:29, 21 seconds
  • Outgoing from CT to DS cell at 14:2?, 18 seconds.
  • TEXT outgoing from CT at 16:23:33 – “like my underwear.”
  • TEXT into CD’s phone at 19:14:32 – hits off a tower in Selkirk/St. Andrews area.
  • There are no other calls on CT’s phone between 15:07 and 17:48
  • “There are no phone calls” – for three hours and 24 minutes there’s no activity with CT’s phone.
  • At 19:51, 53 and 55 three calls totalling 170 seconds hit off tower at 311 Partridge St.
  • At 19:56 and 19:58, two calls totalling 67 seconds go in to CT cell off King Edward and Notre Dame tower.

(it goes on like this for a while – see Crown timeline)

 

  • On Feb. 7 at 13:24 a TEXT from CT states: “not sure bro, all I know is he need me to pick him up in a few days.”
  • On Feb. 7 incoming TEXT from woman, TG to CT at 22:29 states: “Hey I talked to Courtney, and I just played dumb to everything. She doesn’t think I have your new number either, so if anything’s said, just pretend we haven’t talked.”
  • CD’s phone never gets a call from DS landline or cell in the records Tillotson had.

 
Court adjourns to deal with an issue with the cell-tower map

 
DAY 13 – Court not sitting
Day 14
Tillotson, direct continued.

 

  • Takes jurors through the cell tower map [see photo]
  • States it’s “absolutely not” easy to make changes to the map because of the complexity of how data compiled.

 
Cross-examination:

 

  • Lawyers for Brincheski introduce their own chart of phone records.
  • Agrees there’s a lot of numbers and names not included on the Crown’s timeline.
  • 14 numbers are listed off, two she was unable to confirm subscriber information for after checking RCMP database records. Checking the subscriber information was not part of what she was tasked with.
  • “Fair to say” it’s difficult to just look at the data and sort it all out.
  • “I’ve never been asked to do a full call analysis on this file.”
  • Was provided phone numbers of interest and asked to plot them on the timeline.
  • Questioned about the “various numbers” line on the chart, asked why it was done this way.
  • Without it: “The chart would have gone on to infinity.”
  • The 810 (“don’t miss”) text was left hanging on the timeline because it was so similar in nature to the 801 number.
  • She can’t recall being asked to look for subscriber information for the 810 number.
  • There’s an error with one of the numbers for the Super 8 motel on the chart.
  • Between 9:44:58 on Feb. 6 and 10:21:38, CT’s phone makes 8 calls to various people/voicemail that aren’t on the chart.
  • There’s discrepancies in the “duration” of calls between CD and CT records.
  • This is because outgoing calls start clocking when ringing starts on other end, clock on other end when answered.
  • (For example, CT’s records show a call to CD at 11:05:55 that lasted 31 seconds, while CD’s records show it was a 6-second call that went to voicemail.)
  • CT’s records were used for the timeline for continuity “across the board.”
  • Davis’s records show he made/received a number of calls that morning not on the timeline, including to RMG at 12:05:41 and five calls to/from SW between 11:39:33 and 12:21:50.
  • She wasn’t asked to add those on the timeline.
  • “That’s not a number I was provided” (SW’s).
  • There’s an instance on chart where number for S. Lancaster is incorrect by one digit.
  • She was only provided “very limited” information about the RCMP investigation, attended briefings. Did not have access to witness or other statements.
  • On the (suspicious?) texts that were included on the timeline: “They stood out as being unusual.”
  • There were several calls between CT and KZ that day that weren’t mapped.
  • This includes a 74-second call at 11:27:40 and another at 11:42:43
  • No, these calls were not included on the timeline meant to assist the jury.
  • “The request from the investigators at the time was very limited and specific.”
  • A call from AB at 21:04:20 should have been mapped to the “various calls” line, not to DS cell as the timeline indicates.
  • For Feb 4, CT’s device got/sent 37 total calls and 4 texts were sent. On the chart only three of the calls were plotted, and no texts.
  • For Feb. 5, CT’s device got/sent 23 total calls and 15 total texts, 5 calls were plotted and one text for the timeline.
  • On Feb. 6, CT’s device got/sent 69 calls total and 12 texts.

-Court adjourns-

Brincheski/Tymchyshyn (Chad Davis) murder trial: The opening

Chad Davis
Chad Davis

2174 days ago, Chad Randall Davis vanished.

That’s five years, 11 months and 13 days (Or more than three million minutes).

And after all this time, the public is finally getting a look into what RCMP and Manitoba prosecutors believe happened to the 22-year-old.

I won’t belabour the point other than to say: that’s a heck of a long time to wait for a trial. For all involved, the victim’s family, those accused and yes, the general public.

Corey Tymchyshen and his (ex?) friend and business partner Kristopher Brincheski are accused of murdering Davis on Feb. 6, 2008.

The men, naturally, are presumed innocent, and prosecutors have a large hill to climb to satisfy a jury they’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the most serious offence in Canadian law — first degree murder.

The suspects weren’t arrested by RCMP until weeks after Davis’s body was found in a barrel floating on the Lee River near the town of Lac Du Bonnet on July 23, 2008.

But after the arrests were announced — long before, even — the mystery of just what happened to Davis has lingered for many in Manitoba.

The prosecutor’s opening statement in a trial does more than focus the jury on what it is they may (or may not) get to hear.

(They’re cautioned what is said is not evidence — only a guide to what they may hear and see. It’s what the witnesses say under oath that counts.)

The opening statement also allows the public a preliminary glimpse into what the case is all about.

I thought it important to reproduce the vast bulk of Manitoba Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson’s opening remarks, verbatim. Here they are, for the record.

Again, these are not proven facts, only allegations.

“So what does the Crown say happened?

We say that Chad Davis was with his girlfriend, on Feb. 6, 2008.

He was staying at a hotel room at the Red Lion Inn in Winnipeg. The two were planning to move to Calgary together and start a new chapter in their lives.

Mr. Davis left the Red Lion Inn around noon on Feb. 6 to go meet up with Corey Tymchyshyn at his mother’s house at 703 Prince Rupert here in the city of Winnipeg.

Mr. Tymchyshyn owed a drug debt of somewhere between $18,000 and $28,000.

When Mr. Davis arrived at 703 Prince Rupert, he was led into the detached garage at 703 Prince Rupert, where Mr. Brincheski was waiting.

Mr. Davis was attacked and killed in the garage by them both.

Mr. Davis’s body was then wrapped in plastic, it was put into a large plastic barrel. He was then put in the back of Chad Davis’s Jeep Cherokee and driven to Lac du Bonnet.

The barrel was weighted down, and holes were drilled into it to allow it to sink.

The barrel was then pushed into the Winnipeg River, with Mr. Davis’s body in it.

The barrel with Mr. Davis in it was then found by two unsuspecting cottagers on the Lee River in July of 2008.

Who was Chad Davis?

You will hear in the next few days from his girlfriend and from his parents. They will no doubt tell you a bit about him – but I wish to be direct with you, ladies and gentleman.

You will hear some evidence that Mr. Davis was no angel. It will become clear as we hear from witnesses in this matter that he was in fact a cocaine dealer and that some of his qualities were less than admirable.

But whomever and whatever Chad Davis was, what occurred here was morally wrong and a criminal act.

I want to tell you about some of the evidence you’ll be hearing in this matter. The first two witnesses you’ll be hearing from today are the gentleman who had the misfortune of finding Mr. Davis’s body.

These two individuals found a barrel that was knocking up against their dock, and they went to deal with it. They discovered that this barrel contained Mr. Davis’s body.

You’ll hear from officer Maria Forrester of the RCMP … she is what is termed an identification officer and will be a guide of sorts to help explain certain locations and areas of interest and precisely what was found during the course of this investigation.

She will be giving you a series of photo booklets, and we suspect you will be hearing from her on a number of occasions throughout this trial.

We will be discussing medical evidence and the cause of death of Mr. Davis with the Chief Medical Examiner for the Province of Manitoba.

This will require us to show you autopsy photos of Mr. Davis. While some of these pictures are graphic, they are necessary to give you a clear picture of his evidence.

The date of Feb. 6, 2008 is one you will hear a lot in this trial. On that date, the girlfriend of Chad Davis *inaudible* (she) will give you information such as what he was wearing, why they were there and what their plans were for the day.

She will be able to tell you that she was familiar with many of Chad’s possessions. Some of which were in a storage unit he rented. Some of which he had in his Jeep Cherokee when he went to 703 Prince Rupert that day.

What you will discover later on in this case is that many of these personal items were in fact found in the possession of Mr. Brincheski when a warrant was executed on his house in early 2008.

Shortly after Feb. 6, 2008, Chad Davis was considered to be a missing person, and Winnipeg police started to investigate. You will hear from a Winnipeg Police Service officer about a conversation he in fact had with Corey Tymchyshyn.

You will hear from (Davis’s parents) …

When you compare (what they said) to what Mr. Tymchyshyn told the police, you may start to think that what he was saying didn’t really make sense.

You will hear about a storage locker that Corey Tymchyshyn helped rent for Chad Davis, but one which was solely for the use of Mr. Davis.

On Feb. 6, in the evening, records indicate Mr. Tymchyshyn was at the storage locker. Weeks later, after the death of Mr. Davis, he and Mr. Brincheski came back and emptied the storage locker of all of Chad’s possessions.

You’re going to hear from a man … he was a friend … to the mother of Mr. Tymchyshyn when Chad came over to 703 Prince Rupert on Feb. 6, 2008.

He will be able to give us some insight as to the events at 703 Prince Rupert that day. You will hear from (a next-door neighbour) … on the day that Mr. Davis’s body was discovered, she heard sounds of demolition in the garage where we say Mr. Davis was murdered.

You will then have (two men) testify about how the interior of the garage at 703 Prince Rupert was torn down, the pieces taken to a property near Anola – to be used in a renovation property.

When the materials were analyzed, the RCMP found that the same type of plastic that Mr. Davis was wrapped in was also taken from the garage of 703 Prince Rupert.

You’re going to hear about some plastic shavings found in the back of Mr. Davis’s Jeep Cherokee. We say that these shavings were created when holes were drilled in the barrel when Mr. Brincheski and Mr. Tymchyshyn were trying to dispose of that body.

You’ll hear about testing done on similar barrels by an RCMP officer, how these tests show drilling into a barrel would create shavings such as these.

You’ll hear about DNA evidence that the RCMP were able to gather from the garage at 703 Prince Rupert. That DNA testing done within this garage revealed that Chad Davis’s blood was on the floor.

You will hear from someone who worked for Mr. Tymchyshen … and his daughter. They will tell you that Mr. Tymchyshyn threatened he had killed a person previously and put him in a barrel in a river.

We will also be calling evidence from cellphone and text message records. We will be calling experts to help explain this technical evidence to you. We feel this evidence will help detail communications between Mr. Davis and the accused persons, and their locations on and around Feb. 6, 2008.

You will also hear from (a relative of Brincheski’s) … he too, will help give an understanding of what happened on Feb. 6, 2008.

We are very aware there is a lot of evidence for you to listen to … but in a nutshell, we are saying to you, when you are given all of the evidence in this trial and when you look at it together, the Crown will be able to demonstrate that Mr. Tymchyshen and Mr. Brincheski are guilty of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

At this point, that is all I will say to you about the evidence.”

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Murder most foul and we don’t care

(The multi-plex where gang membersHenderson and Baptiste were killed on Jan 31, 2009)
(The multi-plex where gang membersHenderson and Baptiste were killed on Jan 31, 2009)

 

[EDIT: A slightly-revised version of this post appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press Sunday edition on Sept. 15. Below is the original version].

I keep wondering why more folk in the general public don’t appear to care all too much that two young aboriginal men were brutally cut down in the prime of their lives, killed brutally inside a shabby suite in a West End multiplex.

Yes, Dennis Baptiste and Jessie Henderson were members of a feared and loathed Winnipeg street gang, the Mad Cowz.

But for many young aboriginal men in a city where baby-faced teens somehow can get their hands on a .357 Magnum and carry it about with seeming impunity to kill over ridiculous notions of revenge, gang membership or association is to people in some particular circumstances, more akin to a Scouts club or after-school sports program might be for semi-affluent kids who live in Winnipeg’s sprawling suburbs.

And therein lies the rub of it. Our ability to look the other way or shrug our shoulders at the deaths of these men speaks to a fundamentally larger problem our society suffers from.

That being: a shocking and profound inability to empathize very much any more. That’s my gut feeling. And I trust my gut.

Live by the sword, die by the sword,” one person replied to me on Twitter tonight when I expressed my angst on this topic.

I celebrate every time one or more of these drug dealer/gangsters gets snuffed,” said another.

Bullshit, I say to them here in reply. These are the answers of cowards.

Dismiss out of hand what you refuse to even try to understand.

Eye for an eye is an exercise in mental gymnastics which will take us nowhere.

Regardless of anything: These two 23-year-old were living, breathing people, goddammit. For example: Baptiste had two young children. He had a long-time partner who cared about him. He lived, he breathed.

And dear God, how he bled.

I never met either of these men. And I’m pretty much sure they would have spat on me — or at least eyed me with extreme suspicion — if I had ever had the courage to walk up and say hello.

That’s not the point. The point is that between my cowardice and what I assume would be their disdain are symptoms of a sickness.

Just as street gangs are symptoms of a larger sickness still — a generational, trickle-down illness of poverty, rampant unfairness, inequality and racism.

I deplore senseless violence. I detest gangs and their uber-profitable, miserable businesses of drug-and-human trafficking, just to name two of the major income streams.

But to the degree an outsider can, I understand why the gangs exist and how they persist.  And I know we don’t (or is it can’t or won’t?) do nearly enough as a society to be able to convince gang members to want to get out, that something better is waiting on the other side.

I find it very, very difficult to simply say, ‘meh‘ to a life cut senselessly, brutally, criminally short.

But that’s what I see happening when it comes to the overall public reaction to the murder trial — a process trying to find some justice for Henderson and Baptiste.

Media coverage, aside from the daily newspapers, has been scant, despite wide-spread coverage of their deaths when they were discovered.

It makes no sense to me how there’s little follow-through.

But I won’t get too deep into that, because we don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes. This brings me to what I wanted to point out. My appreciation.

I don’t know if the Winnipeg police have it right in charging Ken Roulette – reportedly a friend of these men — with the deaths.

There are things about this case I’ve seen so far that don’t quite add up to me, at least just yet.

But in the end, it’s not up to me, or you, to decide. In this way, we’re just observers to the work six men and six women are now charged with doing.

But what I do know is that homicide investigators and the two seasoned Crown prosecutors now putting in the case didn’t have the choice of saying, ‘Meh,’ and shrugging their shoulders when called on to try and bring some resolution to this awful matter.

What I do know is that two of Winnipeg’s best defence lawyers don’t appear to be conceding one inch of territory to their state adversaries — another hallmark of criminal-legal seriousness. The stakes are huge here.

There’s an aura to the proceedings as a whole which I can only describe as spine-tingling. It hangs over the courtroom like a pregnant dark cloud.

To me, it’s right and just that this feeling persists. The awfulness of what happened here can’t be brushed aside, despite my fear it will.

Ask yourself this. If it had been two 23-year-old white kids from Charleswood or St. Vital who were killed in this fashion — what would the interest be then?

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Chris Campbell: Another tragic case of under-resourced mental health/criminal justice services?

Christoper Mackenzie Campbell
(Christoper Mackenzie Campbell/WPS)

While many facts remain yet to be proven or tested, it’s pretty clear something appears to have gone horribly wrong with Christopher Mackenzie Campbell.

Campbell, at age 42, currently stands accused in Winnipeg’s latest homicide — believed to be that of a relative, possibly his mother — in a home on Alexander Avenue this weekend.

It was a rare situation in which police believe Campbell left the city in a family vehicle which is linked to the victim, one located just outside of Regina on Sunday. Campbell made his way into that city and was taken into custody downtown.

He was to be returned to Winnipeg forthwith.

Court records show a charge of second-degree murder is pending. The victim’s identity, including her age, has not been released.

Police this weekend said the following in announcing they were looking for him:

“Campbell has been treated for a mental illness in the past.

Information has been received that he has not been taking his medications as required.

Caution should be used if approached by Campbell as his behaviour may be unpredictable and he may be violent.”

I fear Campbell’s case may end up being another of those sad ones which seem to crop up each and every year.

Those ones where justice system efforts to assist and supervise ultimately clash, fizzle or peter out due to the poor state of urgent mental-health related resources in Manitoba, a pressing topic I only recently wrote about.

In any event, some background:

An incident in summer 2008 ultimately seemed to force Campbell’s hand to seek out help for his issues.

His lawyer at the time called his arrest at that time “a blessing in disguise” as Campbell may not have been diagnosed or sought help if it hadn’t happened.

It was on July 6, 2008 that Campbell approached a total stranger — a landscaper from Shelmerdine garden centre — outside Campbell’s apartment block at 400 Assiniboine Avenue.

He walked up to the gardener and asked him not to use any “power equipment” on the lot — a request to which the victim says he must use a power blower to do his job.

“If you use any power equipment, I’m going to get a sniper rifle and shoot you in the head,” Campbell replied.

He also tossed the glass of water he was holding at the landscaper.

The bizarre threat was overheard by an independent witness.

Police are called, they arrive quickly. Campbell declines to speak with a lawyer while in their custody.

But in his time with police he makes several other concerning comments, including how the interviewing officers seem like “dolphins out of water,” that “he’s a nice guy, almost God-like” and that one officer’s badge number, “is similar to the Mayan’s calendar that adds three years.”

He pleads guilty to a count of uttering threats. An assault charge is stayed.

The Crown agrees to recommend a conditional discharge after learning Campbell — a father to two teenagers — took it upon himself to seek out mental-health help following his arrest.

At the time of his February 2009 sentencing, court was told he was under the care of a psychiatrist and occupational therapist at the HSC’s PsychHealth centre, having checked himself in there for a time.

He was diagnosed with what was described as “mild” schizophrenia.

“It turns out that his mother also has schizophrenia … so perhaps it’s hereditary,” Judge Marvin Garfinkel is told.

At the time, Campbell was unemployed, but volunteering at the HSC in its “spiritual assistance department.”

The former co-owner of the long-then-defunct Rogue’s Gallery on Assiniboine [less than a block from his home at the time] was due to have a first outpatient appointment at PsychHealth five days after his court date.

He was to see the psychiatrist and therapist bi-weekly.

Garfinkel ordered Campbell to serve a year of probation, with a central condition being for him to to comply with the treatment as directed by his doctor. That could include to take medication as directed, Garfinkel said.

Campbell readily agreed to follow the program and conditions the probation order set out for him.

“I’m here today of my own freewill, under your mercy,” Campbell told Garfinkel in a clear, unconfused voice.

“And I just wanted to say … I’ve witnessed for the first time now how the court system works, and, you’re offering a lot of grace today, and I just want to say, ‘thank you,’ for that.”

There are no breaches of the probation order recorded in the provincial court system — and Campbell had no apparent prior or proceeding record of involvement with the law.

From uttering threats to an allegation of murder. It’s absolutely tragic for everyone involved.

While our police have said little about their homicide case — which at first glance seems just a hair’s breadth from a domestic violence killing — They did make it clear Campbell appeared to be off his meds at the time.

It’s too early to make any observations of whether gaps between the justice and mental-health systems are in any way to be faulted or was a factor in the killing.

But the fact is, from early appearances of the case, Campbell was known to be a risk — and at risk — when not on his meds.

His probation was only one year long, so who knows how long he may have been off of them, or off of the radar of the system entirely.

Those answers may come in due course as Campbell’s latest interaction with the system plays out. He’s naturally presumed innocent of the charge he’s facing.

But after years of seeing eerily similar cases, my mind can’t help but wonder: Was this tragedy in any way preventable?

Was there something we as a society could have done to ensure it never happened?

Is under-resourced mental health care and supervision again the grey elephant in a gloomy room?

Stay tuned.

Links:

[Must read] Mental Health Commission of Canada: Mental Health and the Law

CMHA: Mental Health and the justice system in BC 

Stats Can: An investigation into data collection between Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems

National Post: Mental Health system turning prisons into asylums

Earned Parole: its time is now

prison“… The typical offender tends to have a history of substance abuse, a previous criminal history, a previous negative correctional history (escape, segregation, revocation of parole), low program completion rates and higher levels of imposed residency conditions at release.”  — Correctional Service of Canada on Earned Parole

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I will.

If governments are really going to take a meaningful “tough on crime” stance while portraying themselves in the virtuous light as true defenders of victims, they would do well to do one thing to back up their rhetoric.

(And it isn’t by increasing the use of absurd mandatory minimum sentences.)

Government must: do away with statutory release policy which frees violent offenders (other than lifers or ones declared dangerous offenders) after two-thirds of their sentences and move instead to an “earned parole” system where an offender must prove his or her early release is justified.

I was given another great example why this is necessary today in a sit-down with Floyd Wiebe, who’s son, TJ, was murdered in 2003 through a truly ugly and feckless conspiracy amongst three (really four or even five, people) — and his body dumped in a field outside the city.

It was a conspiracy which Dominic Urichen, now 29, played a key role in.  He was arrested in 2003 and convicted in 2006. He’s been in institutions since his arrest.

Next week, Urichen will receive statutory release now that he’s served the required 2/3 of his time.

The thing is, he’s done virtually no programming or job training while in custody. Yet Urichen gets out early.

Despite the fact psychologists and the parole board believe he’s a very high risk to reoffend violently, Urichen gets a taste of freedom.

And despite the fact he’s painted by the parole board  as essentially remorseless for what he did (Wiebe tells me Urichen sullenly once told a parole adjudication panel he didn’t even know why he was in prison in the first place), he’s getting out.

Admittedly, his freedom isn’t unfettered. To remain in the community, Urichen, who is clearly mentally ill but denies it, must abide by a number of conditions. They include keeping a curfew at the BC halfway house where he’ll live until his sentence fully expires, keeping up with psych therapy and staying away from drugs, booze and negative peers.

But drilling into the parole board documents on Urichen which reference psychological reports on his case, I realized his was one of the worst I’ve seen yet. In my view, he’s a ticking time bomb. The parole board admits as much in their decision to restrict his movements, they just don’t explicitly say it.  (full decision can be found here)

Here’s just a few reasons why:

  • “Indifferent” attitude towards his victim and “minimal remorse”
  • Struggles to interact with others, which leads to conflicts
  • Limited impulse control
  • Episodes of “delusional paranoid thinking”
  • Denial of mental health issues (he’s been diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic/antisocial personality disorder)
  • Substance abuse issues (was caught with drugs in jail)
  • Never had a real job, sold drugs for money in the past
  • Has “persecutory ideas”
  • Has “command hallucinations” to “stab others”
  • Was hospitalized four times at a prison psych hospital
  • No solid understanding of his offence cycle or how his risk can be managed
  • While in custody took a total of two — two — programs: one for healthy living in prison, another for substance abuse
  • Limited education, no upgrades completed in custody

“You have been incarcerated for many years and the contributing factors to your offending are still outstanding, suggesting that you will easily engage in drug use and association with negative peers leading to a deterioration of your mental health, significantly increasing the risk you pose. You have had a very limited exposure to a pro-social life in the past … this leads the board to conclude you will face significant stressors in the community.”

So, based on the above, what can society expect from Mr. Urichen and his new-found freedom? Not much I’d surmise.

But, he’s getting out next week to try and start fresh, get his life off the ground.

He’s had years now to wait for this day. Prison must have been hellish for him. I mean that sincerely.

But the fact is, there’s no way he should be qualifying for early release.

He should have had to earn it through taking measured programming and skills training.

If he won’t participate, then no early release. Simple.

And not because he should be punished more for his crime — but because by not having him do it simply basically ensures he’s going to be entrenched in the crime cycle and punted back in custody yet again at some point.

And that’s not supposed to be the major goal of our justice system in Canada.

Equally important, statutory release sends completely the wrong message to offenders and their victims.

Rewards should not be handed out when nothing’s been done to earn them.

The following is from a 2010 CSC review panel report examining the earned parole issue. Full report is here.

Gradual release of offenders has been a cornerstone of Canadian corrections for many years and the Panel supports that concept. However, the Panel believes that statutory release and accelerated parole have both undermined discretionary release and generally have not proved as effective as discretionary release in mitigating violent reoffending. The Panel believes that an arbitrary release that is not based on rehabilitation is counterproductive, and when aggravated by shorter sentences, reduces public safety. This has been demonstrated by the fact that most violent reoffending by federal offenders is committed by those released on statutory release. To improve public safety and reorient the correctional system to a system that places true accountability on offenders, offenders would be required to earn their way back to their home communities and demonstrate to the NPB that they have changed and are capable of living as law-abiding citizens.

We also must not forget that in Manitoba, provincial inmates qualify for an automatic 1/3 discount off the sentence they’re handed. So the above could also very well apply here as well. Offer more skills training and education in jails. If inmates don’t do the programming, no sentence discount.

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Phoenix Inquiry: Truth and its consequences

Phoenix Sinclair
Phoenix Sinclair

 “People can’t make choices they didn’t know they had” — wise Manitoba lawyer

————-

I’ve never met Steve Sinclair. I don’t really know the first thing about him.

But over the past few weeks I’ve had to really watch myself — to guard against the conceit that I somehow do.

Ever since testimony really got underway in the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry a few weeks back, I’ve spent more than a few moments pondering her dad.

To be more specific: I’ve been trying to put my head around what it might be like to see intimate personal details about your troubled life through your childhood and young adulthood be cast out into the street for all to bear witness to day after day after day for all to see.

Manitoba is undertaking an inquiry into Phoenix Sinclair’s short existence, for sure — but in many instances it’s also appeared to have taken on the shape and form of a microscopic examination of Steve’s life as well.

I suppose it’s unavoidable. No. That’s just wrong. It is unavoidable.

It would be simply impossible to get to the bottom of what actions CFS took (or, as it’s becoming more clear didn’t take but maybe could have) during Phoenix’s all-too-short lifetime without proffering explicit details about Sinclair’s life and the circumstances which informed it before and after after his daughter was born.

We’ve been given a lot of information about Sinclair’s troubled past and, it must be said, reputed failings as a father. But those observations have largely all been filtered through the sieve of the minds, priorities and discretionary note-taking and observations of social workers and other CFS officials.

Sinclair drank heavily at times, we’re told. Couldn’t stay sober enough to hang on to Phoenix at one point. Appears to have abandoned her and vanished at another. Came from a background of CFS involvement and family abuse. Was on welfare. Didn’t seem to work.

And, it perhaps goes without saying: At least one time in his life Sinclair displayed horrible taste in whom he became romantically involved with.

But lost in the bureaucratic morass of case summaries, field visits and wrangling over lost notes and the imprecise departmental distinctions between safety and risk, there’s clearly another side to Sinclair.

To put it simply: It’s pretty apparent he tried.

Tried to play by the CFS rules to be a good dad despite a gloomy history of involvement with CFS agencies, its agents and foster homes over his lifetime. Tried to be a dad to his daughter in circumstances most would find beyond trying or manageable.

And likely, although it hasn’t been explicitly stated, seems to have tried to overcome his reputation as a “passive resistant” CFS client.

Hell, his real name is Nelson Draper Steve Sinclair, but consistently CFS workers refer and referred to him as “Steven.” [I’ve done this too in two separate reports and I felt horribly.]

Think about how remarkable Sinclair’s efforts are, really. Think of them in the context of the sickening and judgemental tenor of our society’s (mostly anonymous) gum-flapping about “welfare bums” and “natives” abusing the social-welfare system. Not to mention within the often-mentioned reality  that aboriginal communities need fathers to step up. (More: Here).

More kids equals more free government assistance cash. Blah, blah, blah. (God, how our criticisms have become dismally uninformed and trite.)

I’m asking you to regard Sinclair within the context of the inquiry’s evidence so far.

That being: Sinclair as a young aboriginal man who clearly had little to no material wealth or grand future prospects and who didn’t just throw up his hands when his daughter was born and seized by CFS.

He agreed to work with the agency. And he did. As far as we’ve been made aware, between April 2000 and at least February 2001, he met all the demands placed on him. He, Kematch and Phoenix appeared to have a stable home life.

Then came April 2001 and the birth of Echo, his second daughter. It’s impossible to really know whether it was a lack of CFS diligence which allowed he and Kematch to leave the hospital without any CFS intervention (It was Delores Chief-Abigosis’s file at this point) or if it was because there were no child-protection concerns for Echo at the time.

Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear by now who was viewed as the real risk to Phoenix, and it wasn’t Sinclair.

When Kematch left their home a few weeks later with Echo in tow, it was Steve who picked up the ball and ran with it.

A couple of days later Kematch brought Echo back in a filthy state , leaving Sinclair a single dad who cared for both the kids, ostensibly with some help from friends. When Chief-Abigosis visited with him in July 2001, Steve was the person feeding Echo, holding her.

He and his sisters organized a sit-down with a worker this month to lay bare their concerns about what was going on in Steve’s life.

Then, Echo died suddenly of a respiratory infection, through no fault of Sinclair’s. Police quickly determined there was no foul play involved.

In the wake of Echo’s death, CFS says they offered Steve services on a voluntary basis. We don’t know yet why he rejected them — but it’s clear he was still working with community resources of some kind. I’ve never experienced such a great loss, so I won’t presume to get into Sinclair’s head as to what he was going through.

Months passed without apparent incident, except for Phoenix being brought to hospital in early 2003 with a thing in her nose, which may have been there for months. Worker Laura Forrest met with him soon after — at the same home he had lived in for about two years at this point.

She described Sinclair as “foul but sober” in her dealings with him. Insisting she’d return to see Phoenix, his reply, according to her, was “we’ll see about that.” How to interpret that properly? It’s impossible to know, really.

Phoenix would be be apprehended again June 22, 2003 after Sinclair apparently couldn’t get his act together enough to satisfy pairs of CFS workers he was able to care for Phoenix. There was no evidence whatsoever she was being abused in any way. Possible neglect was the real worry. Possible.

Phoenix was described emphatically by workers who sat with her in her the Place Louis Riel hotel room emergency placement as “well behaved,” as well as potty trained — so there had to be some parenting happening, some measure of honest care, in her life.

And although Kematch resurfaced at this point, making overtures to parent Phoenix, it was Sinclair who turned up in court on Aug. 13, 2003 with worker Stan Williams to say he wanted to resume parenting once he got things together.

Williams isn’t alive today to share his version and impressions of Steve, but through his boss, we learned he became a fierce advocate for the 21-year-old dad, believed in him to the point he’d basically — for right or wrong — convince his boss to get CFS to hand Phoenix back to Sinclair unconditionally on Oct. 2, 2003.

From there, it’s hard to say what the hell happened.

We do know CFS believes Phoenix somehow wound up in the care of Kematch for a while before she then mysteriously made her way to the safety of foster parent Rohan Stephenson, who, along with his ex, Kim, were good and trusted friends of Sinclair’s — people he (and CFS) trusted to care for Phoenix.

Had Sinclair gone off the rails and ditched out on being a dad?

He was hard to find — but it’s clear that when a worker finally spoke with him on Feb. 5, 2004, he agreed the best thing for Phoenix was for her to stay with the Stephensons as an unofficial place of safety. In a sense — that action was his doing right by Phoenix.

And that’s where we’re left off for now. Yes, there are gaps. Yes, there are some questionable decisions Sinclair made.

But he didn’t ever, ever appear to hurt his little girl — and he certainly didn’t murder her. Neglect her at times, perhaps, sure.

Wednesday morning, Sinclair is scheduled to take the witness stand.

We’re going to hear first-hand his side of the story. Why he chose to act as he did.

But to me, the inquiry — the most expensive such public proceeding in Manitoba’s history, and probably the most contentious — wouldn’t be possible without some major buy-in from Steve Sinclair, some continued effort on his part to see some kind of answers to what sounds like an easy question:

What the hell happened here?

Even in light of Phoenix’s death, Sinclair’s participation in the inquiry, to me, shows he was a father who cared.

And that’s a lot more than many, many other kids in Manitoba have.

We’re not in a position to judge Steve Sinclair.

People can’t make choices they didn’t know they had.

Answers needed in Malcolm domestic-violence murder case

(Sandi-Lynn Malcolm/Facebook)

The provincial government, Justice Minister Andrew Swan and those sitting on the provincial domestic violence Death Review Committee must turn their minds to investigating what happened to Sandi-Lynn Malcolm.

Nothing short of a full and frank examination into how a young aboriginal girl can be serially abused by her ex-partner on a small reserve — only to end up brutally killed by his hands, will suffice.

It’s my view the public should be protesting — as Malcolm’s family and friends have done — to bring attention to her case in hopes of rooting out others like it before it’s too late.

What happened to this girl should not have happened and we should be sickened by it. 

After sitting with the facts of Malcolm’s killing for only a short time now, I believe she was failed on a fundamental level, for a number of reasons:

She lived in an isolated environment that had few resources or opportunities for intervention.

Warning signs — including those expressed through her own words to police — that something awful was going to happen weren’t heeded to the degree they should have.

And, (I suppose it goes without saying) Malcolm suffered a fatal consequence in her continued association with a violent human being who urged her to “trust him.”

He repaid her undeserved trust with unspeakable violence.

She was only 17 years old, though. A kid. We can’t lose sight of this.

Answers must be sought.

Here’s why.

“There. I done what had to be done.” — Ronald Racette Jr.

On the night of Jan. 30, 2010 RCMP who police the Ebb and Flow community got a call from Malcolm’s mother, saying her teen daughter was covered with cuts and had black eyes.

Sandi-Lynn gives an official statement, in which she alleges her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Racette Jr., 19, had brutally assaulted her at his father’s home. He punched her, hit her with a lamp, whipped her with the lamp’s cord and then tried to choke her with it.

A check of Racette’s record on CPIC would have alerted police to the fact of his prior domestic-abuse history.

“I should just kill you,” she reported Racette Jr. as telling her. There were no other witnesses, she told police, who photographed her bruises and cuts.

Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 8, Sandi-Lynn picks up the phone wanting to report the violence Racette Jr. put her through a day prior .

She gives another statement: Sandi-Lynn, covered in bruises, tells RCMP that her vow to stay away from Racette Jr. collapsed when he phoned her, pitifully saying he hadn’t eaten in two days.

“She said she had a soft heart and felt sorry for him,” court was told. “He told her to trust him … she did.”

Sandi-Lynn brings Racette Jr. something to eat. They were “getting along fine,” she said.

But when she said she had to go to work on her resume — she hoped to get a job as a cashier in a store — he grew angry.

While out for a walk, Sandi-Lynn was made to run through deep snow, was knocked down and kicked and pummelled while being accused of being unfaithful while he was in jail.

“She told him she didn’t want to die like that.”

Sandi-Lynn’s next words to police were alarmingly prophetic:

“Everybody had told her not to take him back because the next time, he’ll kill you, but she didn’t listen,” court heard of her police statement.

A raging Racette Jr. continually asked her if “she wanted to die.”

“I should just kill you and kill myself,” he said. They were near a creek in the community. He threatened to just throw her in there, “where no-one would find her.”

Sandi-Lynn’s survival skills kicked in. She offset his volatility by “pretending to love him” — putting on a “big front” in hopes of getting away from him alive.

He kept beating her, and made her stay outside, shoeless, in the freezing cold. “She said she felt like she was being kept hostage or something,” RCMP heard.

Racette Jr. wasn’t drinking, Sandi-Lynn said.

After giving her statement, RCMP set out to look for him. At the second community home they came to, Racette Jr. is seen fleeing into some bushes.

Cops chased him on foot but couldn’t catch up. A warrant issues but he’s not caught.

He’d re-emerge just over two weeks later for his last night of freedom.

A recounting of Sandi-Lynn’s last hours were presented to the court through witness testimony from people who were around Sandi-Lynn in her last hours and minutes.

On the evening of Feb. 26, Sandi-Lynn and a group of girlfriends scored a 30-pack of beer, but didn’t set about drinking heavily. She used the phone at one point, and reported the party was happening at Racette Jr.’s dad’s home.

It’s believed she was talking to Racette Jr. in this call. He turned up not long after.

Before he came to get the girls and their remaining 24 cans of beer, Sandi-Lynn asked her friends to “watch over her and not let him be alone with her.”

He picked them up in a nondescript “black car.”

Instead of driving directly to the party, Racette Jr. took a route past a local cemetery and stopped the vehicle.

“This is where we are all going to end up,” he said.

A ‘trail of knives’

Once at the party, it didn’t take long for Racette Jr. to become irate. Sandi-Lynn refused him a request to go alone with him to another room.

Not long after, Sandi-Lynn and another friend were horsing around, just being girls. “She’s my girl now,” the friend joked to Racette Jr.

Racette Jr. responds by punching the friend in the face four times, an assault only stopped after others intervened to pull him off.

He goes outside for a few moments. Returns. Another request of Sandi-Lynn is made for the two to be alone. Another refusal from her.

This. The last straw. He tosses an ashtray in her direction and begins grabbing knives.

“A number of people went and hid in Ronald Sr.’s bedroom because they feared something terrible was going to happen,” Justice Midwinter was told.

They had no idea how awful it was going to get. Sandi-Lynn and another woman who had come to collect her young son from the home fled to a bathroom.

Another witness reported seeing a “trail of knives” leading to the bathroom door.

‘The cops are coming’

I won’t recount what happens next, other than to say a jealous and enraged Racette Jr. committed acts of such brutal and extreme violence on Sandi-Lynn that hearing the extent of her injuries was truly jarring.

47 stab wounds don’t even amount to half of the total number of injuries a pathologist totalled up. Dr. Charles Littman noted 105 “incidents of trauma” on her.

One of Sandi-Lynn’s friends tried to stop the attack by stabbing Racette Jr. in the back as he murdered the teen. It only served to anger him more.

“He looks at her with an evil look and went charging after her.”

He made his way to his father’s bedroom — they unlocked the door to let him in — where people cowered in fear. Children had to be out out the window for fear of their safety.

“Why did you do that? You killed that girl,” his dad told him. “You better get out of here, the cops are coming.”

Racette Jr. didn’t reply. He went back to the bathroom where Sandi-Lynn was and turned on the shower.

A witness says he left the house shortly after, leaving these haunting words in the gloom:

“There. I done what had to be done.”

Efforts to revive Sandi-Lynn didn’t work. It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Police caught up with Racette Jr. at his aunt’s home, where he was wrapped in a blanket, being comforted by a relative.

 ‘Our little reserve is not a war zone’

There was little defence lawyer Todd Bourcier could say in defence of what Racette Jr. did — acts the now 21-year-old pleaded guilty to doing.

But Bourcier raised some credible points about the lack of intervention and other resources in the community for domestic abusers and abuse victims alike.

The nearest women’s shelter from Ebb and Flow (on-reserve population of 1,200 or so) is in Dauphin, a distance of 50 kilometres away.

Options for counselling for men is limited, even to address what he termed the “surface concerns” for offenders with histories of abusing their partners.

And certainly nothing to address Racette Jr.’s specific needs as an angry, jealous, ill-educated, booze-and-drug abusing violent offender of a horrible background, now convicted murderer.

There’s one band constable on reserve, and the nearest RCMP detachment is in St. Rose du Lac, about 35 or 40 kilometres away, according to an online description of the band’s operations.

Despite the small number of people living in the community, between December, January and February, cops responded to 465 service calls, 78 of them regarding violence, Bourcier said.

It goes without saying Sandi-Lynn’s family and friends have been wrecked by not just her death, but also how she died. She was just weeks away from her 18th birthday.

I was there at the Manitoba Legislature a few days after Racette Jr. was charged with her murder when Sandi-Lynn’s relatives and friends travelled the 300 k.m. into the city to hold a candlelit vigil and peaceful protest to condemn domestic violence.

(Malcolm’s family and friends hold candlelight vigil at the legislature)

“Our little reserve is not a war zone. Things like this should not happen,” her dad, Kingsley Malcolm, told me at the time.

They did the same thing in 2011, this time, her cousin calling for more attention to be paid to what happened:

“At the time of Sandi’s death the Olympics were closing, so there was not much coverage about her. We needed to bring it to the public’s attention,” she said. “I felt I needed to do this so we could honour her and bring people together to support one another. (from missingmanitobawomen.blogspot.ca published Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011)

Racette Jr.’s sentencing judge, Justice Brian Midwinter, was clearly aggrieved at the underlying circumstances informing Sandi-Lynn’s death, telling the gallery:

 There were no resources in the community for Mr. Racette to access … and I have to deal with a vicious attack unprovoked by anything the victim did.

Would it be too much of a stretch to believe that the simply sad domestic-violence resource situation in Ebb and Flow is markedly different from countless other isolated Manitoba communities out there?

Today, using the only tiny power I have — this forum — I’m calling on the Manitoba government to task its domestic violence Death Review Committee to investigate Sandi-Lynn’s murder, the circumstances that led up to it and issue a public report on its findings. 

Further reading:

Father of slain teen condemns domestic abuse

Missing and Murdered Manitoba Women on the Malcolm case

Sandi-Lynn Malcolm Obituary

Domestic violence on the docket

Domestic violence: Province of Manitoba

Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (Free Press, update article in 2011)

Province announces Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (2010)

Home, home on the range

Milner is the provincial jail where all sentenced MOB (Most Organized Brothers) street gangsters are held, court was told Tuesday.

Everyone — the Manitoba government, youth corrections staff, even the young cold-blooded murderer himself — wants to see him transferred out of the young offenders corrections system and into an adult jail.

Everyone but the killer’s mom, that is.

And possibly provincial court Judge Judith Elliott.

It was a rare proceeding in court Tuesday where the now-18-year-old convicted murderer and confirmed MOB gang member was seeking a transfer from the youth facility he’s currently being housed in and into an adult facility to serve out the remaining years on the custody portion of his seven-year-long youth sentence.

The young man — and he is a man now — is serving the time after stepping forward and pleading guilty to second-degree murder for the “senseless and unprovoked” shooting death of young dad Scott MacGillivray in his own backyard in August 2009. This guy was the one who pulled the trigger.

He and a co-accused (the story link above references him — also MOB) had just committed an armed home invasion down the street from MacGillivray’s North End home when McGillivray encountered the pair trying to ditch the gun.

He’s been locked up at Agassiz Youth Centre, the Manitoba Youth Centre or at various times in lockdown solitary confinement at the Lakewood Correctional Centre for youths since his arrest for the killing.

And now, under section 92 of Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, he’s requested a transfer into the adult system, ostensibly because he’s sick and tired of being surrounded by kids and their juvenile behaviour.

Judge Elliott must determine whether it’s in his best interest to go adult [she doesn’t believe it is] or in the public interest to remove him. He can’t just do it, despite being an adult in law.

His mom, as stated above, opposes the move.

“I don’t agree with him going to an adult facility,” she told Elliott Tuesday. “I don’t want him to … [but] he decided that’s what he wants to do,” she said, adding in adult jail, he won’t be at the receiving end of hugs from relatives who want to see him do better.

Yes, she told him, she understands the kids in juvie get on his nerves, but “there are a lot of adults who can be immature too,” she warned him. “Some of them don’t give a shit either.”

A provincial civil lawyer representing the provincial correctional department wants him out of the youth system too, saying his anger issues present a “real risk” to kids in the system with him, that he poses an “increased likelihood of serious harm” if he stays.

Why, just on Sunday, Elliott was told, there was an incident where an inmate complained of being bruised and battered — an incident described by the killer as “horseplay” apparently gone too far. It’s possible he could face charges from it.

“There’s a propensity for unpredictable violence,” the Crown lawyer said. “We see it being safer … having him transferred to an adult facility.”

As well, the province says, the murderer has exhausted all avenues of rehabilitation programming available to him in the youth system.

But if he is, he’s in for a long wait to get a bed at Milner Ridge, the provincial jail where adult MOB gang members are held, a senior corrections official testified.

MOB members waiting months for transfer

Alan Peacock, a chief correctional officer/manager at the Winnipeg Remand Centre told court that there are currently three MOB members at the downtown facility waiting to get a cell/bed at Milner.

Right now, Peacock says, the MOB range at Milner is double bunked and full. Any prospective additions to the range could wait from a week to six months to get there.

Currently, there are three MOB members in the remand centre on the wait list. One of them has been waiting about 3-4 months to get moved to Milner.

There was little talk of the killer disavowing the gang life. And even if he did, he’d have to prove he’s had two years of non-activity in order to be put in general population.

He can’t dodge his gang label, Peacock said.

“That’s the community he lives in,” said defence lawyer Iain MacNair. “He’s going to continue to be exposed to it … rehabilitation right now does not seem to be progressing at a steady rate at Agassiz (youth jail),” MacNair said.

“We can’t just arbitrarily take a gang label off of somebody,” Peacock told Elliott. Even if Corrections did, inmates in jail “have their own communications grapevine” throughout the adult and youth systems to find out who’s who in the zoo and who’s charged with what, he said.

If the killer is transferred — and Peacock has no stake in the game, really  — he’s likely to spend all his time at the remand centre on 23-hour-a-day segregation with limited access to programming or recreation because there’s no room to put him while keeping he and other inmates safe.

As it is, he was headed back to youth segregation after court Tuesday because of Sunday’s violence.

Peacock was queried about what programming the killer would be able to access in the adult system. He said while he couldn’t really speak for jails where sentenced prisoners are held, there is more offered — if offenders choose to avail themselves of it.

“It all depends on the individual, we can’t force anybody,” said Peacock. “We can identify and recommend,” but can’t force inmates out of their units and into classrooms or workshops.

Is putting someone who’s just 18 on an adult gang range in his best interest?, asked Elliott.

“If somebody wants to get out of a gang, that’s not going to help them,” Peacock said. “You fall under the hierarchy and leadership of that gang,” he said.

Judge unconvinced — maybe she should be?

Elliott, by the end of the hour-long hearing — she herself is a former probation officer — was blunt about having to possibly take him out of the youth system and onto the MOB range at Milner — when and if he can get there.

“I’m certainly not of the view it’s in his best interest to be transferred to Milner Ridge,” she said.

She asked for a youth correctional official from Agassiz Youth Centre be called to testify before her about the young killer’s case in coming weeks before coming to a decision.

All I say is — he’s 18, an adult. If he wants to go there, let him go — especially if he’s in any way interfering with the potential rehabilitation of a young offender in the youth system.

Even the killer conceded if he’s charged for Sunday’s violence, he’ll be charged as an adult and sent packing to the remand centre.

“I’m just stating facts,” he told Elliott, without guile.

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