Duvet cover that held Tina Fontaine's body belonged to Raymond Cormier, former friend testifies

A former friend of Raymond Cormier told court he saw the man accused of killing Tina Fontaine with the duvet cover police found wrapped around her body.

Witness says Cormier 'slept with' underage girl, which would be sexual assault

A courtroom sketch shows Raymond Cormier watching a witness in the Court of Queen's Bench in Winnipeg. (Tom Andrich)

A former friend of Raymond Cormier says he saw the man accused of killing Tina Fontaine with the duvet cover police found wrapped around her body.

"I recall seeing it because he had some clothes in duffel bags and he had it out on the floor. The blanket came out of the bag he had and he put stuff on top of it," Ernest DeWolfe testified Tuesday at Cormier's trial for second-degree murder.

Cormier, 56, is accused of killing Tina, a 15-year-old girl from Sagkeeng First Nation, in August 2014. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial, now in its 11th day, is being heard at Court of Queen's Bench in Winnipeg by Chief Justice Glenn Joyal and a jury of seven women and four men.

The trial started with a jury of 12, but one juror was excused from duty because of a medical emergency in her family.

Tina's 72-pound body was pulled from the Red River near the Alexander Docks in Winnipeg, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighted down with rocks, on Aug. 17, 2014. The cause of her death was never determined.

DeWolfe testified he met Cormier when the two were inmates at Stony Mountain Institution in 2011.

They also both lived at the same halfway house after being released, but had a falling out because Cormier didn't pay back a loan. They lost contact after they were both sent back to prison.

They reconnected in the summer of 2014, and DeWolfe said he introduced Cormier to friends of his who lived at a house at 22 Carmen Ave. DeWolfe said he, Cormier and his friends Sarah Holland and Tyrell Morrison did drugs together at the house, and that is where he saw the duvet cover.

DeWolfe also said Cormier told him he "slept with" Tina. A 15-year-old girl is too young to consent to sex with an older man, so that would be sexual assault.

​"I sort of thought 'Really? She's a child,'" DeWolfe said.

When asked how old he thought Tina was, DeWolfe said either 13 or 14, but Cormier told him she was 18.

It was a difficult morning of testimony for Tina Fontaine's loved ones. Her great aunt Thelma Favel left the court room in tears after hearing 56 year old Raymond Cormier bragged to a friend he had sex with the teen in the days before she disappeared. 1:38

After DeWolfe testified that Cormier told him he slept with Tina, her great-aunt Thelma Favel, sitting in the audience, burst into tears and briefly stepped out of the courtroom.

DeWolfe also testified that on Aug. 15, 2014, he and Cormier also discussed an argument Cormier and Tina had, in which she told Cormier that he was "creeping her out" and threatened to call police and "rat him out about a truck he had stolen," DeWolfe testified.

DeWolfe was concerned about police coming to the house and Cormier said he had talked to Tina and "straightened it all out," he said

In late September, DeWolfe called homicide detectives from Milner Ridge Correctional Centre and told them he had information about Cormier and Tina, and told them to go to the house at 22 Carmen Ave. and talk to a woman named Sarah Holland.

It was there that Winnipeg police found Cormier and arrested him, but he wasn't charged with killing the teen until the following year.

On Dec. 4, 2014, DeWolfe was taken to the Public Safety Building and asked to identify the duvet cover he saw with Cormier, and he identified it in pictures police showed to him.

Under cross-examination, defence counsel Andrew Synyshyn challenged DeWolfe's testimony and his reasons for contacting police.

Synyshyn suggested DeWolfe was sent back to prison because Cormier "ratted him out" to his parole officer, by telling the officer DeWolfe was using drugs.

DeWolfe denied that was the reason he was sent back to prison.

"I went back to prison because I messed up," he said.

DeWolfe contacted police because he has "morals" although he is not "a shining example of a pillar of the community," he said.

"I had something I thought would be prudent to police. I did so because it involves a child and I believe in morals."

Synyshyn also asked why it took DeWolfe six weeks to contact police with his information about Cormier, and suggested Cormier never told him he slept with the teen. DeWolfe said he remembered Cormier telling him he slept with her.

Synyshyn then suggested that DeWolfe identified the duvet cover because Sarah Holland, who DeWolfe was living with at the time, had described it to him after police showed her pictures of it.

"You had conversation with Ms. Holland the day before and she described the blanket to you and you gave police the description Ms. Holland gave you," Synyshyn said.

"No," DeWolfe replied.

"Sir, you never saw that duvet at 22 Carmen," Synyshyn said.

"I saw a duvet at 22 Carmen, or a blanket, or whatever," DeWolfe said.

'She said her name was Tina'

On Tuesday afternoon, the jury heard from a man who said he encountered Tina one night in August 2014 outside of a halfway house at 1048 Main St., where he was living at the time.

Robert Sango, 64, testified he was sitting on a bench outside the halfway house, smoking a cigarette and waiting for a friend, when he saw a girl walk up and use a payphone. He didn't hear what she said, but he saw her "slam" the receiver down. She then came up to him and asked for a cigarette.

"I sort of teased her because she looked so young, maybe 13 or 14," said Sango. "The minute she touched the cigarette, she started crying."

I remember her teeny little hand — it was so small, it was so tiny. And she said her name was Tina.- Robert Sango

When he asked what was wrong, she said she had been at a house with some friends when an "older gentleman" started "putting the moves on her."

She then said she left the house and discovered that her bike was missing, Sango testified.

Tina told Sango that she had been speaking to police on the phone.

Court has previously heard an audio recording of a phone call Crown prosecutors say was made by Tina to 911 on Aug. 6, 2014 to report a truck stolen by her friend "Sebastian" — a name Cormier used at the time.

Sango said Tina looked "tiny" and seemed "naive." When she told him she had no money and nowhere to go, he cautioned her that she shouldn't be saying that to strangers. She said she was worried someone might be following her, and Sango told her to get off the streets.

He testified that she told him she was going to go to a friend's house on Sutherland Avenue, and Sango said that was the direction she was walking in when he last saw her.

Before she left, she shook Sango's hand.

"I remember her teeny little hand — it was so small, it was so tiny. And she said her name was Tina," he said.

DNA specialist

Court also heard testimony Tuesday from an RCMP DNA specialist who examined samples taken from Tina's body, from inside the house on Carmen Avenue, and from inside the stolen truck seized by police.

Susan Borys told the court that although several swabs from inside the house showed DNA that matched Tyrell Morrison, Sarah Holland and Ernest DeWolfe, only one matched Cormier and none matched Tina.

None of the DNA found in the truck matched Tina or Cormier, and degradation made it impossible to get a suitable DNA sample from the duvet cover or Tina's body, Borys said.

Crown prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case this week.

About the Author

Cameron MacLean

Web Writer

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, Man. where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.

With files from Caroline Barghout