High-profile death of cousin sparked slain woman's meth use: trial
Published Monday, January 7, 2019 11:13AM CST Last Updated Tuesday, January 8, 2019 5:02PM CST
WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg court has heard a woman started using methamphetamine after her teenage cousin's body was found in the Red River before she herself was killed in what the Crown says was a botched drug debt collection.
Jeanenne Chantel Fontaine, who was 29, was shot in March 2017 before the house she was in was set on fire. Christopher Brass and Jason Meilleur are charged with manslaughter.
Fontaine's brother told court Tuesday his sister started taking the highly addictive drug after their 15-year-old cousin Tina Fontaine's body was found in August 2014.
Tina's death sparked national outrage and renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Raymond Cormier was acquitted in her death last year.
Vincent Fontaine, who goes by Chuck, testified he began staying at a house where his mother and sister lived earlier that month. He told the jury that Jeanenne Fontaine's boyfriend stayed at the house sometimes and was also dealing methamphetamine.
He said his sister liked to make clothing and was working on a project in her room when there was a knock at the front door on March 14, 2017.
Three men said they were looking for Jeanenne Fontaine's boyfriend and Vincent Fontaine testified he let them in even though his sister's boyfriend was not there.
"They didn't seem like a threat at that time," Vincent Fontaine said.
He testified one of the men stayed at the front door, another went to speak with his sister and the third pulled out a pocket knife and started searching the home for the boyfriend.
When two other friends showed up at the back door, he testified things started to get tense. The man with the knife pulled out a gun and the two other friends took off.
The man with the gun ran through the home again and Vincent Fontaine testified he heard a gunshot. He told court the man then started to empty garbage cans on the stove and turn the burners on.
Vincent Fontaine said he asked, "What are you doing man?" and the man pointed the gun at him. That's when he said he ran out the back door without putting shoes on.
Defence lawyer Theodore Mariash asked whether the men had demanded property, drugs or money and Vincent Fontaine responded they hadn't.
"You had no idea where that gun was fired or by who?" Mariash asked.
"That's correct," Vincent Fontaine said.
Court heard how he tried to call his sister multiple times but there was no answer. Despite being urged by his uncle to call police, he resisted.
Mariash questioned why Vincent Fontaine would not want to call police and about the differences in his statements to police and fire investigators.
Vincent Fontaine said he only thought there was a fire and didn't know his sister had been hurt, adding he didn't have a good relationship with police.
Pathologist David Taylor, who performed the autopsy on Fontaine, testified she suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns over 35 per cent of her body. However, he told court she died because she was shot in the head.