Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of Thomas Brine, who is accused of killing Winnipeg grandmother Elizabeth Lafantaisie, heard from the accused for the first time Wednesday — albeit in the form of a police interview video.
Court watched part of the police video on Wednesday afternoon, as well as heard testimony from Det.-Sgt. Wesley Rommel, one of the investigators who interviewed Brine.
Brine, 29, is charged with the killing, confinement and sexual assault of 73-year-old Lafantaisie, whose body was found stuffed in the trunk of her own car, located abandoned in the Osborne Village area in February 2011.
She had been strangled to death, court was told.
Brine has pleaded not guilty. The jury hearing the case against him consists of three women and nine men.
Lafantaisie had been attacked in the underground parking garage of the Summerland apartment building on University Crescent, court heard.
Her car was found across the city near River Avenue and Lewis Street six days after she disappeared.
Broke into cars in south Winnipeg, court heard
The video footage from the police interview, which was done four days after Lafantaisie's body was found, shows Brine rubbing his hands together as he walks into the interview room.
"So, tell me about south end of the city. Why do you go there?" Rommel is heard asking Brine in the video.
"To be honest with you guys, I go there to break into cars and stuff," he replied.
Brine then goes on to tell investigators he frequents two locations, looking for cars to steal: the Summerland apartment parkade and another parking lot on Adamar Road, near the Canad Inns on Pembina Highway.
"How many times have you been to Summerland [in the] last two, three weeks?" said Rommel.
"Maybe like three times," Brine said. "I don't wear a mask or anything. My face is shown."
Brine is later heard telling police he found Lafantaisie's vehicle running, with the keys inside, in front of an apartment building on Adamar Road.
"I just wanted a ride. It was f--king cold, man," Brine is heard saying in the video.
Ditched vehicle in Osborne Village
Court heard that Brine later told investigators he took the car and drove around, smoking crack.
"I drove down Pembina, broke into some cars there…. Drove to Donald [Street] and Stradbrook [Avenue]. Broke into some cars there. Some people came and I just left."
Brine told police he drove around again, got out of the vehicle, and continued to smoke crack outside in the Osborne Village area.
When asked why he left the vehicle, Brine said, "Because I was tripping … I was high."
Police then asked, "What about the keys?"
"I just tossed them somewhere on the way," Brine said, adding that he then waited for his girlfriend to pick him up around Donald and Stradbrook.
Wednesday's hearing wrapped up before the jury could watch the entire video. It will be shown in court on Thursday morning.
Watching the police interview was tough for members of Lafantaisie's family, who have been attending the trial this week.
"We were unlucky to lose our mother for this and it was senseless," daughter Anna Maynard told reporters outside the Winnipeg courthouse.
"She was at a bad, wrong place, wrong time. We just feel for her so much," said Lise Gosselin, another daughter.
1-in-68-trillion chance DNA evidence did not belong to Brine
The Crown has alleged that Brine had taken the vehicle to a self-serve car wash to remove all evidence.
Earlier on Wednesday, court heard that there is a one-in-68-trillion chance the semen found on Lafantaisie's body could have come from anyone other than Brine.
Greg Litzenberger, who worked at an RCMP forensics lab in 2011, testified about the unlikelihood that the DNA found on Lafantaisie came from someone other than the accused.
He said the lab examined three vaginal swabs taken from Lafantaisie. The first two tested negative for semen but the third one tested positive.
Although the vast majority of human DNA is common between individuals, there are particulars that are specific to an individual, court was told.
To determine the DNA profile, Litzenberger examined nine areas of the DNA molecule known to be different as well as a 10th that would identify if the sample came from a man or a woman.