Manitoba

'Just say u don't know what i do,' accused texted ex after police interview, murder trial hears

According to text messages shown in court, Brett Overby told his ex-girlfriend not to say anything about him to police.

Brett Overby is accused of 2nd-degree murder in the 2016 death of Christine Wood

Christine Wood took a selfie using her mother's phone on the last day they saw her — Aug. 19, 2016. The photo was shown in court Wednesday. (Melinda Wood)

The man accused of killing Christine Wood told his ex-girlfriend not to say anything about him to police, according to text messages shown in court at his second-degree murder trial Wednesday.

Brett Overby is accused in the death of Wood, 21, who went missing in August 2016. Wood's body was discovered in June 2017, in a farmer's field in the rural municipality of Springfield, just east of Winnipeg.

Overby was arrested before that discovery, in April 2017, and charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday — the second day of his trial — jurors were shown text messages he sent to Shirley Houle, his ex-girlfriend, prior to his arrest, but shortly after Houle was interviewed by police.

"Do me a favour, u don't know anything I do anymore. k? I didn't do anything it's just im really nervous and would like them to stop bugging me," Overby texted Houle on Feb. 1, 2017.

Overby also texted Houle "So please woman, just say u don't know what i do.. or who i hang with or anything."

Brett Overby has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Christine Wood. (Instagram)

On Wednesday, Houle testified she dated Overby for nine years before they broke up in March 2016. She said she moved out of their Burrows Avenue home because Overby had paid for it.

She said they remained friends, still texting, talking and hanging out.

The jury of nine men and three women heard that Houle spoke on the phone with Overby on Aug. 20, 2016 — the day it's believed Wood died.

She went on to say she went to the Burrows home the next day and spent more than three hours with her ex.

"We were going to continue watching Orange Is the New Black," she said, referring to the Netflix series.

"I noticed Brett put out a display of all my favourite foods," she said, which included boxes of fresh fruit and three bags of chips.

She testified he wanted to cuddle, but she refused. 

"Did you observe anything out of the ordinary during that three or three-and-a-half hours you were with Mr. Overby?" asked Crown prosecutor Brent Davidson.

"No," replied Houle.

Plenty of Fish

She testified she did not see Overby or speak with him much after that day, because her new boyfriend was upset she went to the Burrows home.

She told the court she knew her ex was also dating and had an account on the dating website Plenty of Fish.

"He sent me pictures to see if they were good enough to put online," she laughed. "I told him he was a nerd."

Overby also laughed from the prisoner's box. He smiled through much of Houle's testimony.

The man in this photo was identified in court as Brett Overby by his ex-girlfriend. The woman was identified as Christine Wood by her mother. (Court exhibit)

On the opening day of the trial, the jury heard Wood met Overby on Plenty of Fish.

When Houle and Overby texted in February following her interview with police, Overby brought up his online dating.

"U don't know about POF [Plenty of Fish] either K," he wrote to Houle.

"Ummmmm," she responded.

"Umm what??" he asked.

"I might have already said that. About POF," she replied.

Houle went on to explain police had questioned her about her phone and when she saw him last. The conversation ended shortly after.

Photo evidence

The jury was shown a series of photos on Wednesday, including pictures showing the yard, driveway and inside of Overby's Burrows home.

Houle testified that everything looked the same as when she left in March, except for two differences in the basement: a large hole in the drywall, and plastic sheeting between the ceiling and three-quarter wall that was missing.

She was also shown a photo of a man and woman seated on a couch.

"That's Brett," she said, adding he and the woman were sitting on her grandmother's couch.

Melinda Wood was shown the same photo when she testified on Tuesday. She identified the woman as her daughter, Christine.

It has not yet been revealed in court how police got the photo.

Person of interest

The jury previously heard Overby did not come onto the radar of police until early 2017, when detectives obtained a  record of two Facebook messages Wood sent on Aug. 20, 2016. The messages were sent from Overby's IP address. 

On Wednesday, court heard from the two men who received those messages. Siu Wong and Bao Tran testified Wood was looking to buy $100 worth of cocaine. Both testified they were selling cocaine at the time to friends and people they partied with, but did not sell to her that night.

Tran testified he had only socialized with Wood about 10 times, while Wong said he had socialized with her close to 50 times, mainly at parties or when he sold her cocaine.

He was also questioned about Wood's demeanour while she was drinking. He told the court he broke up a fight once between her and another girl at a party. He also said she "snapped" at him for no reason at a different party and he "calmed her down using words."

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin is presiding over the jury trial, which is expected to continue until May 17.

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About the Author

Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been reporting for a decade. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor