Tina Fontaine's cause of death remains undetermined: pathologist tells Cormier trial
Published Wednesday, January 31, 2018 11:48AM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:05PM CST
A forensic pathologist took the stand Wednesday morning in the trial of a man accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.
Raymond Cormier, 55, has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder.
Court has heard Fontaine's body was discovered in the Red River near the Alexander Docks in August 2014 wrapped in a duvet cover.
A jury of eight women and four men, and Chief Justice Glenn Joyal are hearing evidence in the trial.
Health Sciences Centre forensic pathologist Dr. Dennis Rhee testified he conducted an external examination of Fontaine's body on Aug 17, 2014 and an internal examination on Aug 18, 2014.
Dr. Rhee told court her body was "wrapped in a sheet-like layer of bedding material" and was "tied together with two sets of knots."
"It was noted that there were rocks inside along with the body," Dr. Rhee testified.
Dr. Rhee testified the bedding had embroidery on it and was consistent with a duvet cover.
READ MORE: Toxicologist and river boat captain testify at Raymond Cormier trial
He told court the examinations did not determine how Fontaine died.
"No definitive injury was noted during the external examination," Dr. Rhee testified. "No sign of injury was noted to the internal organs."
"The cause of death still remains undetermined."
Dr. Rhee testified no evidence of a sexual assault could be detected. He added there were no signs of a stabbing or any evidence of major blunt force trauma.
"I don't know how she came to her death."
He said suicide would be unlikely because Fontaine's body was wrapped in a duvet and weighed down with rocks suggesting someone may have been trying to conceal the body.
"The way the body was presented is highly suspicious," Dr. Rhee testified. "I would not be able to rule out a minor assault."
He said he couldn't rule out a drowning either but there's also no evidence on the body a drowning occurred.
Dr. Rhee testified about how long, based on decomposition, Fontaine's body was likely in the river.
"A rough estimate would be three to seven days," he told court.
Under cross-examination by Cormier's lawyers Dr. Rhee testified there were no signs of strangulation or physical choking.
“All we had was a young girl in a duvet cover pulled out of the river:” WPS exhibit officer testifies
Const. Susan Roy-Haegeman with the Winnipeg Police Service’s forensic identification unit testified that her unit had no crime scene to work with in the investigation.
Roy-Haegeman was assigned as the exhibit officer in the case.
She told court no forensic evidence was found linking Cormier to Fontaine’s body, the duvet or a stolen truck which the Crown believes was used to dump Fontaine’s body in the river.
Under cross-examination, Roy-Haegeman said: “We didn’t have a starting point. All we had was a young girl in a duvet cover pulled out of the river.”
The duvet, Roy-Haegeman testified, had a tag which indicated it was from Costco.
She testified it was searched for bodily fluids, fibres and hairs.
Court heard fibres and hairs were sent to a lab for analysis.
Roy-Haegeman told court police also searched a tent in a backyard on Alexander Avenue where investigators had learned Cormier spent some time and an apartment on Carmen Avenue where some of Cormier’s belongings were seized.
Cormier’s lawyers suggested police asked for expedited lab results on hairs found on the duvet because of the national attention the case was getting.
Roy-Haegeman testified it’s difficult to get expedited results from the lab and the reason police asked for them was because they wanted to find a potential suspect because a young girl had been found dead.