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Winnipeg firefighter, martial arts instructor on trial for sexual assault
WINNIPEG -- WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers.
The trial for Winnipeg firefighter and martial arts instructor Manuel Ruiz continued Thursday with more testimony from a woman who told court about unwanted touching and sex.
Ruiz was charged in September 2017 with sexual assault but court heard the alleged offences happened many years earlier.
Ruiz’s lawyer, Matt Gould, cross-examined the woman on evidence she shared in court Wednesday.
The woman testified she first met Ruiz in a martial arts studio in 1986 when she was 12 and he was an adult and that they stayed in contact for several years.
Gould asked the woman, who cannot be identified, what if anything she did to address concerns she testified having about Ruiz.
“I didn’t do anything. I was too scared,” the woman told court, noting she looked up to him because he was a firefighter.
The woman testified the man she referred to as “Uncle Manny” would stand in a doorway at the martial arts studio and brush up against her with his fingers
“That would make me very anxious and uncomfortable,” she told Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey.
The woman told court after she stopped attending the same studio as Ruiz, he started phoning her at home when she was 14.
“I remember him asking me if I missed him,” she testified. “If he was in any of my dreams.”
The judge heard the two of them stayed in contact by phone for several years.
The woman testified when she was at least 19 she again started going to the same martial arts classes as Ruiz where she said similar touching occurred several times — with Ruiz standing in the doorway, partially blocking the entrance to the change rooms.
“Were you okay with him touching you in this manner and on those parts of your body?” Crown attorney Michelle Bright asked.
“No,” the woman replied, telling court she never considered the two of them to be in any kind of dating or romantic relationship.
The woman told the judge Ruiz agreed to do some private investigator work to track down her father who’d left her life when she was a teen. The woman testified this left her in a vulnerable state because when Ruiz found him, the woman’s father didn’t want to reconnect with her.
She testified after that, Ruiz was at her apartment one evening when she was living on her own and he touched her.
“He very quickly put his hands in my underwear,” she testified. “He kissed me and then he smirked and walked out the door.”
The woman testified about another encounter at her apartment in which she told the judge Ruiz threw her on a futon and had sexual intercourse with her.
“At that point, I just went numb,” the woman told court. “I remember focusing on a light fixture.”
“I remember asking him, ‘why me?’”
The woman told the trial that the sex continued, which at times hurt her and she wanted it to stop.
The woman told court when she raised the issue with Ruiz, he reacted.
“He was very cold,” she testified. “He’d just say how he was going to burn my mom’s house.”
“He’d use the dogs a lot. I had two dogs at the time. He’d say he would poison the dogs.”
The woman told court she stopped hearing from Ruiz after an alleged break and enter at a bed and breakfast she worked at in the city. She testified it happened after she moved his son’s stuff out of the place after her boss found out the boy had been living there.
“He grabbed a shovel and he started to hit the door to break open the lock,” she testified.
The woman told court, police came but she was never made aware of any charges.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and Ruiz is presumed innocent.
The trial continues Friday, when a second woman is expected to testify.