WINNIPEG — A jury has found two men guilty of manslaughter in the high−profile shooting death of a Winnipeg woman inside a home that was then set on fire.
Christopher Brass and Jason Meilleur were charged after Jeanenne Fontaine was killed in March 2017.
She was the cousin of Tina Fontaine, a teenager whose body was found three years earlier in the Red River, and whose death fuelled calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Another man, Malcolm Mitchell, pleaded guilty to shooting Fontaine last month and was sentenced to life in prison for second−degree murder.
The Crown had argued that Brass and Meilleur should be convicted of manslaughter because they went to the home with Mitchell and were planning to rob Fontaine and her boyfriend when the shooting happened.
The Crown said the three went to collect on a drug debt — about $90 worth of methamphetamine — and Brass and Meilleur should have known the situation would turn violent because Mitchell was armed with both a gun and a knife.
Defence lawyers did not present evidence during the trial, but said during closing arguments that the Crown had failed to prove that a robbery was being committed. A cellphone and other valuables were left untouched.
They also pointed to witness testimony that Mitchell was alone with Fontaine in a bedroom when he shot her. Brass and Meilleur were elsewhere in the house. Mitchell then started the fire.
The killing was the latest in a series of hardships for 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 in her death, Raymond Cormier, was acquitted last year.
Tina Fontaine 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 that 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.
The Canadian Press