By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The voice of a slain 15-year-old girl echoed through a courtroom Monday more than three years after her death renewed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“Hey, um, I’d like to report a blue truck that was stolen earlier today,” Tina Fontaine said in a 911 call played at the trial of the man accused of killing her.
She was told to call the police non-emergency line.
“That was Tina,” Thelma Favel, the great-aunt who raised her, testified as she sobbed deeply.
Monday marked the opening of a second-degree murder trial for Raymond Cormier, 55. He was arrested 16 months after Tina’s body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, was pulled from the Red River in central Winnipeg in 2014.
She had run away from a hotel — where she was being housed by Child and Family Services — and was being sexually exploited. Her death shocked the city and led the Manitoba government to phase out the use of hotels for kids in government care.
Crown attorney James Ross laid out his theory for the jurors. He said Tina had a happy childhood and was raised by Favel on the Sagkeeng First Nation, a 90-minute drive northeast of Winnipeg.
Favel said everything changed when Tina’s father, who had cancer and was unable to care for her, was murdered in October 2011.
“It hurt her bad. She cried constantly,” Favel testified.
Tina got a tattoo with her father’s name, a pair of angel wings, and his dates of birth and death, she said.
Tina’s mother, who had not been part of her life, re-emerged after that and Tina found out she had younger siblings, Favel said. That led Tina to go to Winnipeg to visit her mother for what was supposed to be one week in late June 2014.
Favel told court she had given Tina a pre-paid phone card, didn’t hear from her and called around trying to find her.
“I called the police. I called (Child and Family Services), but nobody found her.”
By that time, Ross said, Tina had fallen into street life and was being sexually exploited.
Ross told jurors they will hear evidence from Cormier’s friends, as well as from wiretaps of Cormier’s apartment, that he killed the teenager because he was worried he might be arrested.
“There will be evidence from Mr. Cormier’s associates that he and Tina had a bad falling out … that ended with her threatening to report him to the police,” Ross said.
Cormier has a sexual interest in Tina and later was angry upon finding out she was only 15 — one year below the age of consent, Ross said.
“Mr. Cormier told associates that Tina Fontaine ‘got killed because we, I, found out she was 15.’”
Ross also said Cormier was worried Tina was going to report him for possessing a stolen truck — the same one the Crown believes was used to transport her body to the river.
Autopsy results said Tina’s body weighed just 77 pounds when it was found. Favel descibed her as a small girl who looked younger than her age.
Her body was weighed down in the river by rocks, which kept it from surfacing for days, Ross said.
The long time in the water means there is no DNA evidence for the trial.
“Simply put, time and the river washed away any evidence there was on the body or the duvet cover.