Thomas Brine found guilty of 1st-degree murder of Elizabeth Lafantaisie, 73
29-year-old strangled Winnipeg grandmother, left her in trunk, jury heard at trial
Family members of Elizabeth Lafantaisie say they're relieved to see a jury find Thomas Brine guilty of first-degree murder in the Winnipeg grandmother's death.
The nine men and three women in the jury reached their verdict 2½ hours after deliberations began Wednesday afternoon.
Brine, 29, had pleaded not guilty. He stood emotionless in court while his mother sobbed. Members of his family shouted, "Thomas, I love you" as he was escorted out of the courtroom.
Members of Lafantaisie's family, who had attended the entire trial, gasped and cried when the verdict was read aloud.
"Very tough day. We waited five years for this, and we're so happy that there has been justice for my mother," Lise Gosselin, one of Lafantaisie's daughters, later told reporters outside the courthouse.
"It won't bring her back, but at least we can end this and go on with our lives," said Anna Maynard, another daughter.
The family said they had expected jury deliberations to go longer than they did, but they are happy with the outcome.
"I think whoever has their moms today or their grandmothers, hug them, embrace them, be with them because you never know," Maynard said.
A sentencing hearing for Brine will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.
Jurors heard the Crown's evidence during the trial, which began Feb. 8 in Winnipeg. The defence did not call any witnesses and Brine did not testify.
On Wednesday morning, Justice Joan McKelvey of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench instructed jurors about their duties and the general rules of law, as well as specific rules that apply to Brine's case. She also reviewed the evidence and facts in the case.
Court has heard that Lafantaisie was attacked in the underground parking garage of the Summerland apartment building on University Crescent. Her car was found near River Avenue and Lewis Street, in Osborne Village, six days after she disappeared.
Jurors watched a video recording of Winnipeg police investigators' interrogation of Brine shortly after he was arrested.
- Thomas Brine speaks in police video shown at trial
- 'I have this car with a body in it,' accused in Elizabeth Lafantaisie homicide told police
During the interrogation, Brine admitted he had stolen Lafantaisie's car, which he said was running with the keys in it outside an apartment building on Adamar Road near Pembina Highway.
However, he denied having any involvement in Lafantaisie's death. He told officers he found her body in the trunk after taking the car. He said he then drove the vehicle — while smoking crack — to Osborne Village, where he took it to a car wash before abandoning it.
Defence lawyer Bruce Bonney raised questions Tuesday about a Winnipeg police officer's handling of the evidence and note-taking in the case, suggesting there may be problems with DNA samples collected from Lafantaisie's body.
- Defence lawyer questions 'sloppy note-taking' by police
- 'Disgusting, sad and horrible': Lafantaisie's family reacts to medical examiner's testimony
A forensics officer testified there is a one-in-68-trillion chance that semen found in a swab from inside Lafantaisie's vagina could have come from anyone other than Brine.