By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Defence lawyers for two men charged in the killing of a Winnipeg woman whose family has suffered repeated tragedies have told a jury the Crown has failed to prove its case.
Closing arguments ended Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of Christopher Brass and Jason Meilleur, who are accused in the March 2017 death of Jeanenne Fontaine.
Fontaine was shot in a home that was then set on fire. She was the cousin of Tina Fontaine, a teenager whose body was found three years earlier in the Red River and whose death sparked calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Another man — Malcolm Mitchell — has already pleaded guilty to shooting Jeanenne Fontaine. The Crown says Brass and Meilleur should be convicted of manslaughter because they went to the home with Mitchell and were planning to rob the woman and her boyfriend when the shooting occurred.
Ted Mariash, defence lawyer for Meilleur, told the jury there was no attempt at a robbery and that a cellphone and other valuables were left untouched.
“They would have taken the obvious items of value (if they were planning a robbery),” Mariash said.
“None of the actions of anyone are consistent with a robbery.”
The Crown has said the three men went to the home to collect on a drug debt — about $90 worth of methamphetamine.
After some discussion, Mitchell went into a bedroom with Fontaine and shot her in the back of the head. The other men remained in other parts of the home and fled when the shots were fired, while Mitchell lit a fire.
The men had gone to the home together and Mitchell was armed with a knife and a gun, Crown attorney Michael Desautels said, so all three bear responsibility.
“That (Jeanenne) was killed during this robbery was foreseeable,” he said.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday.
The trial was earlier told of a link between the tragic deaths in the Fontaine family. A relative testified Jeanenne, who was 29, only started taking meth after her cousin Tina’s body was pulled from the Red River in 2014.
The 15-year-old’s body had been wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks. The man accused of killing her, Raymond Cormier, was acquitted last year.
Tina had also spiralled downward after a family tragedy. Her father, Eugene Fontaine, was beaten to death in 2011. Two men pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Victim impact statements at their trial noted Tina had a happy childhood but was unable to cope with her father’s death, got into trouble, and drifted away from the people closest to her.