Jurors at the trial of Raymond Cormier on Thursday watched a combative portion of a Winnipeg police interrogation video involving the man accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.
Cormier, 55, is accused of second-degree murder in connection with the death of the 15-year-old girl, whose 72-pound body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg on Aug. 17, 2014. Cormier has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
On Wednesday, the jury of eight women and four men watched 1½ hours of the roughly 2½-hour long interrogation video. During that portion, Cormier seemed co-operative with the officers and answered questions.
In the video, he told the officers he thought of Tina “like a daughter” but also thought she was a “hot chicky” when he first met her, before finding out how old she was.
In the portion of the videotaped interrogation seen Thursday — the eighth day of the trial — Cormier appeared to become angry when the officers started to press him on whether or not he had a stolen truck and power tools at the house where police arrested him.
He can be heard swearing at the officers, and seen lying on the floor and refusing to answer questions in the video.
‘Don’t focus on me’
Police arrested Cormier on Oct. 1, 2014, after they found him at a house on Winnipeg’s Carmen Avenue, where they went to interview a woman named Sarah Holland following a tip.
Sgt. Wade McDonald told the court on Wednesday that he and his partner went to the door of the Carmen Avenue house and told Holland they were there to ask questions about the murder of Tina Fontaine. Holland said she would meet them in their car.
McDonald testified that while he and his partner, Det.-Sgt. Scott Taylor, were talking to Holland in the unmarked cruiser, McDonald saw Cormier staring at him. Cormier, who was already a suspect in Tina’s death at the time, had outstanding warrants and McDonald received orders to arrest him.
When the police officers went to arrest him, Cormier tried to run away, but he was caught and brought in for questioning, court heard Wednesday.
When McDonald asked Cormier why he ran, he said he didn’t want to go to jail.
In the earlier portion of the interrogation video, Cormier talked about the last night he said he saw Tina Fontaine. She came to the house on Carmen Avenue crying, because her boyfriend, 18-year-old Cody Mason, had gone back to his home community of St. Theresa Point.
Cormier said Tina left the house after she got upset because Cormier had taken her bike and sold it for two grams of marijuana. He also told police during the interrogation that there was another man, who looked like Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who he said police should be focusing on.
“Don’t focus on me as the guy who did it, ’cause I didn’t do it,” he said in the videotaped interview.
Cormier gets angry at police and yells at them that the truck “doesn’t have anything to do with the murder of Tina Fontaine”. Then he lies down on the ground.
The portion of the video the jury watched on Thursday begins after Cormier had time to sleep in the interrogation room. By that time, police had interviewed Holland and other people in the house, and they started to press Cormier on omissions and inconsistencies in his earlier conversation.
“There’s some information that they say you had with you that night. You had some property that night,” McDonald said in the video.
“Like what?” Cormier asked.
“Power tools,” McDonald replied.
“What is the difference if I had a power tool or not? I’m not saying I didn’t,” Cormier said.
“Specifically, how you got those power tools there, out of a vehicle that you had with you that night,” McDonald said.
Cormier eventually said he did have a black truck, but denied stealing it and refused to answer questions about where he got it.
“If you can’t find that person then don’t look for someone to f**king pin it on”, Cormier says to them. “Ultimately in the end guess what? Whoever f**king did that is done, pinched okay.”
Cormier can be seen in the video growing increasingly angry as the officers continued to ask questions about the truck and tools, at one point taking off all his clothes after McDonald asked Taylor whether they thoroughly checked Cormier for weapons.
McDonald repeatedly told Cormier that he was not interested in charging Cormier for the stolen truck and was only interested in what happened to Tina, but Cormier refused to answer any more questions.
“My best interests are not in your best interests or whatever. Get the f–k away from me. I want to talk to my lawyer,” Cormier said.
In the portion of the video seen Wednesday, Cormier said he knew Tina for a few weeks in the summer of 2014. He met her on the street with her boyfriend, Mason, who he called her “royal guard” because he was always with her. He said that is part of the reason why he never had sex with Tina.
Cormier says Fontaine may have threatened to call the cops on him for stealing her bike. Cormier says there is a guy on the other side of the street. Says the guy looks like Robert Plant. Same hair style and colour. White guy middle aged.
Cormier said the last time he saw Tina, she came to the house on Carmen Avenue crying, because Mason had gone back to his home community of St. Theresa Point. Tina left the house after she got upset because Cormier had taken her bike and sold it for two grams of weed, and Cormier told police there was another man who looked like Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who he said police should be focusing on.
“Don’t focus on me as the guy who did it, ’cause I didn’t do it,” he said.
Later in the video, McDonald told Cormier that police knew he lied about selling Tina’s bike.
“In fact you didn’t sell Tina’s bike and we know that. You lied about that. For whatever reason you lied.”
McDonald remarked at that point in the interview that Cormier’s behaviour had changed significantly from their earlier conversation, and said he had to wonder why.
After the video ended, Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal told the jury that suspects have the right not to answer questions.
During Thursday’s cross-examination, defence lawyer Tony Kavanagh asked McDonald whether Cormier might have been evasive because he didn’t want to admit to having a stolen truck.
“In my opinion, the whole overall conversation about the truck, he wanted to avoid,” McDonald replied.
Cormier remained in custody on charges related to the other warrants until June 2015.
Court also heard Thursday that after his release, Cormier became involved in a police operation that took him to Vancouver, B.C., where he was ultimately arrested and charged with killing Tina Fontaine on Dec. 8, 2015.
Found in parking lot
Testimony in the last few days has painted a clearer picture of the day before Tina was reported missing for the last time on Aug. 9, 2014, and the various authorities and institutions that came into contact with her, including police, child welfare officials, paramedics and health-care professionals.
On the morning of Aug. 8, Tina was found sprawled out in the parking lot behind the Helen Betty Osborne Centre on Ellice Avenue.
Earlier that morning, two Winnipeg Police Service officers had pulled over a vehicle on Isabel Street with Tina inside.
On Wednesday, Sgt. Shauna Neufeld, who was the supervisor of the missing persons unit, told court Tina was the subject of a missing person report on Aug. 8, 2014, but the officers who pulled over the vehicle told the court on Tuesday that they didn’t know she was missing at the time and let her go.
Tina had gone missing several times in the weeks leading up to her death. Neufeld said after Tina’s last disappearance, she planned to recommend her for a special program for high-risk teens, but Tina was found dead 1½ weeks later.
Court also heard from the doctor who examined Tina when she was taken to Children’s Hospital on Aug. 8 after being found behind the building on Ellice. Dr. Andrea Wilkie-Gilmore said she was worried Tina was being sexually exploited because of the way she was found, but Tina refused a physical exam and wouldn’t answer questions.
Tina wanted a bike
Kimberly Chute, a social worker with the Southeast Child and Family Services Agency, picked Tina up from the hospital and drove her to McDonald’s, something she says she often does with kids in care.
“It’s a great way to get kids talking, and kids tend to talk more in the car,” she told the court on Wednesday.
During the ride, Tina mentioned she was hanging out with a much older meth user named Sebastian — a name the jury was told Cormier used — who was going to get her a bike.
“I tried to not make it a big deal with her, tried to normalize it with her, just to get a little more information, but she was pretty tight-lipped,” she said.
Chute arranged for Tina to stay at the Best Western Charterhouse Hotel in downtown Winnipeg, and tried to persuade Tina to stay there by telling her that CFS had money available to get her a bike — “just to get her to stay put for more than one day,” Chute said.
Tina said she wanted to go see friends at Portage Place, which Chute said is known as a place where kids get exploited.
“We’re not allowed to use any physical restraints. If she wanted to go, she was free to go,” Chute said.
Tina left the hotel shortly after Chute placed her in the care of respite workers there. She never returned.