By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – DNA testing found no traces linking the man accused of killing Tina Fontaine to the duvet cover in which her body was found in the Red River in Winnipeg, an expert witness testified Thursday.
Amarjit Chahal also told Raymond Cormier’s second-degree murder trial that his lab found none of Cormier’s DNA on samples from a stolen truck that the Crown believes was used to transport the 15-year-old girl’s body.
No DNA from Tina was found in the samples from the truck either, Chahal said.
Chahal’s lab ran mitochondrial DNA tests on 35 samples including hairs, swabs and pieces of fabric. Mitochondrial DNA tests can be less definitive than nuclear DNA tests often used in forensics, but are necessary when samples have deteriorated, he said.
The testimony came one day after a forensic pathologist testified he could not determine how Tina died.
Dr. Dennis Rhee said his examinations found no definitive injuries on the outside of her body or to her internal organs. He also said there was no evidence of a sexual assault, no signs of a stabbing or major blunt force trauma.
Tina had run away from a hotel where she was being housed by Manitoba Child and Family Services. She was being sexually exploited.
Her death in August 2014 led the province to phase out the use of hotels for kids in government care and renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The Crown has no eyewitnesses to Tina’s death and no definitive cause.
Crown attorney James Ross said later in the trial jurors will hear evidence from wiretaps of Cormier’s home and from some of his associates.
Ross told court there will also be evidence that Cormier washed his truck. He asked Chahal whether DNA could be washed away.
“DNA … can be washed out, but having said that, traces can remain,” Chahal replied.
The trial also heard from Douglas Orr, an expert witness in textiles and fibres. He examined four fibres found in the duvet cover and compared them to three Mexican-style blankets owned by Cormier.
His results were inconclusive because Cormier’s blankets were made up of more than a dozen types of recycled fabric.
“I cannot be sure … because of the nature of the shoddy construction,” Orr testified.
Police also tried to find the source of the duvet cover Tina was wrapped in.
Det.-Sgt. Esther Schmeider, who worked in the Winnipeg police homicide unit at the time, said the cover was sold by Costco Canada and 864 had been shipped to the three Costco stores in Winnipeg.
Police tracked down 100 people who had purchased the same design pattern that Tina’s body had been wrapped in, called Chloe Green, and asked them whether they still had them.
Under cross-examination, Schmeider said Costco had given away some of the unsold duvet covers, and police could not rule out whether similar duvet covers had been purchased elsewhere and brought to Winnipeg.