Jury reaches verdict in trial of Raymond Cormier, charged with killing Tina Fontaine, 15

Jury reaches verdict in trial of Raymond Cormier, charged with killing Tina Fontaine, 15

The jury has reached a verdict in the second-degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier, charged with killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.

Cormier, 56, pleaded not guilty in the death of the teen from Sagkeeng First Nation north of Winnipeg.  

Her 72-pound body was found in the city’s Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighted down with rocks, on Aug. 17, 2014.

The jurors began deliberating Wednesday afternoon after receiving instructions from Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.

The jury is made up of seven women and four men. A 12th juror was dismissed part-way through the trial because of a family emergency.

The trial, which began on Jan. 29, was originally scheduled to last five weeks, but the Crown rested its case after presenting evidence over the course of 12 days, and the defence did not call any of its own evidence.

Crown and defence made their closing arguments on Tuesday.

tina-fontaine-feature

Tina’s body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighted down with rocks, on Aug. 17, 2014. Cormier was charged with her death on Dec. 8, 2015. (Winnipeg Police Service)

The Crown had no forensic evidence or eyewitnesses directly linking Cormier to Tina’s death, and the cause of her death remains undetermined.

Instead, the Crown’s largely circumstantial case relied on secretly recorded statements made by Cormier, along with testimony from witnesses who said they saw Cormier and Tina together in the days before she disappeared from the Best Western Charterhouse hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Aug. 8, 2014.

Crown prosecutors Jim Ross and Bretta Passler argued that statements made by Cormier in those recordings constitute admissions of guilt.

Court also heard from witnesses who said they saw Cormier with the same type of duvet cover that was found with Tina’s body, and that the two of them were seen arguing days before she disappeared.

Police arrested Cormier on Oct. 1, 2014, but he wasn’t immediately charged. He spent time in prison on unrelated charges and was released in June 2015, when police launched an undercover operation that included making secret recordings of conversations Cormier had inside his apartment and with undercover officers. 

In these recordings, Cormier seemed obsessed with Tina’s killing, saying he wanted to find her killer but also making statements about her death.

Part of Cormier’s motivation for killing Tina, the Crown argued, was that he wanted to have sex with her before he found out she was under 18, and he didn’t want to be known as a pedophile.

One witness, Ernest DeWolfe, testified that Cormier told him he had sex with Tina. There were also statements made by Cormier in the transcripts of the recordings that the Crown argued were admissions that he had sex with her.

In one conversation with a woman on July 17, 2015, Cormier said: “15-year-old girl f–k. I drew the line, and that’s why she got killed. She got killed, I’ll make you a bet. She got killed because we found out, I found out she was 15 years old.”

In another recording from Sept. 25, 2015, Cormier says, “You ever been haunted by something? What happened there really f–king it’s not right. F–k. It’s right on the shore. So what do I do? Threw her in.

“I did Tina, f–kin’ supposed to be legal and only 15. (Inaudible) … No going back, too. The cops said if there would have been DNA, and then probably they would’ve had enough evidence to charge, you know that, for the murder of Tina Fontaine.”

The Crown argued that Cormier’s recorded statements and witness testimonies amounted to proof that Cormier killed her and threw her body in the river.

In his closing remarks to the jury members, Ross said that the defence will ask them to “overthink” Cormier’s words.

“Believe him for what he says and convict him for what he did,” Ross told the jury.

Cormier was arrested and formally charged with Tina’s murder on Dec. 8, 2015. 

Cormier’s defence

Cormier’s defence lawyers, Tony Kavanagh and Andrew Synyshyn, challenged that evidence, arguing the Crown’s case was built on inferences made from recordings that are difficult to hear.

First, with no cause of death, Kavanagh argued in his closing remarks that the jury cannot know for certain that Tina died as a result of an unlawful act, and Cormier should be acquitted “on that alone.”

They argued those statements allegedly made by Cormier in transcripts prepared by police could not be verified by listening to the audio recordings and pointed out that at no point in the transcripts did Cormier admit to the killing.

Even if the jurors accept the accuracy of the words written in police transcripts, defence lawyer Kavanagh argued that rather than admissions of guilt, Cormier’s words should be interpreted as those of a man who feels guilty for not doing more to help Tina.

“That is the guilt that is eating him,” Kavanagh said.

They also challenged the memories of witnesses who said they saw Cormier with the duvet cover and suggested there are other potential suspects who might have harmed Tina.

“We say that justice for Tina Fontaine does not result in an injustice for Raymond Cormier,” Kavanagh said.

Cormier’s defence team did not put him in the witness box during the trial.

The trial was emotionally taxing for members of Tina’s family who attended, including her great-aunt Thelma Favel, who raised her since she was four years old.

Tina’s death drew attention across Canada and fuelled calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Published at Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:29:20 -0500