iTeam·CBC Investigates

Police still building case against alleged killer of Tina Fontaine

CBC News has learned that additional samples have been collected from Raymond Cormier while he awaits trial for the murder of Tina Fontaine.

Police collected 2nd set of DNA samples from Raymond Cormier in April

Winnipeg police collected four droplets of Raymond Cormier's blood in April. It's the second time they collected his DNA in connection with the Tina Fontaine case. (CBC)

Sixteen months after he was arrested for the murder of Tina Fontaine, police visited Raymond Cormier to extract a second set of DNA samples from the accused.

"They already took my blood once," Cormier said in a phone interview.

"They don't have a case. That's what I've been trying to tell everybody," Cormier said.

Tina Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a duvet cover in the river near the Alexander Docks on Aug. 17, 2014, eight days after she was reported missing. Cormier was charged with her murder in December 2015, following an elaborate Mr. Big sting.

He has never denied that he knew and took drugs with Fontaine, but he has strenuously denied killing her.

"If a man didn't do a thing, then how can they have a case other than to have fabricated, twisted and lied? And believe me, the embellishment that they did, the cops, it's extensive."

Armed with a warrant, two Winnipeg police officers visited Cormier at the Brandon Correctional Centre on April 21 to collect four droplets of his blood. Cormier said he originally refused until he cleared it with his lawyers.

Cormier had previously given police DNA samples when the homicide investigation was in its early stages in the fall of 2014.

Tina Fontaine's body was found in the Red River wrapped in a duvet cover near the Alexander Docks in August of 2014. (CBC)

He has also claimed the Winnipeg Police Service fabricated evidence against him in the course of its Mr. Big sting — a controversial technique in which police create a fictitious criminal organization and invite the target to join.

He filed a complaint about the matter to the Law Enforcement Review Agency. That LERA file has taken a back seat to Cormier's looming criminal trial date in January 2018.

Cormier contends his arrest was also politically motivated because police and justice officials were under pressure to solve the high-profile homicide of the Indigenous teenager.

"I don't understand how they could, 16 months after my arrest, come to get more blood. It doesn't make sense," Cormier said.

Collecting extra DNA evidence from an incarcerated suspect isn't unusual, but it isn't typically done either, according to Lisa Silver, professor of criminal law at University of Calgary.

"You can be sure that a further testing is going to be ordered because it is needed," she said.

Lisa Silver teaches criminal law at the University of Calgary. She says in complicated cases, the investigation often continues in the lead-up to trial. (Mike Spenrath CBC)

Silver listed a number of possible reasons why a second round of DNA might have been required — all covered in the Criminal Code. Among those reasons are an insufficient previous sample amount, lost or contaminated previous samples, or simply a Crown decision to have additional tests performed at other facilities.

"It could simply just be unpacking evidence that they already have and is therefore not necessarily key but could make a piece of evidence more persuasive. Or it could be that the Crown feels that they don't have a key piece of evidence, which is a DNA profile on the accused. And if that's the case, then the Crown will really need this test," she said.

"Maybe the Crown is thinking to themselves, 'Let's try this and see what happens,' and so maybe it isn't crucial," Silver said. "But certainly it could be that the Crown feels that they need further evidence for trial."

Silver said the Fontaine investigation didn't necessarily end with Cormier's arrest.

"Typically, the investigation would have been over. But in a murder case, particularly where it is complex, or where there may be really only circumstantial evidence, the investigation is going to continue," she said.

"I've seen cases where there have been further statements made by an accused when they've been in custody. You'd be surprised about the further investigation that police can do."

Cormier's case is heading straight to trial next January. Silver did not want to speculate on the strength of the case but noted because there will be no preliminary inquiry, the Crown does not have a chance to test the strength of some of the case's evidence.

"For trial, it's a higher standard of proof," Silver said. "Not just sufficient evidence but evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The Crown really needs to be sure that they have all their pieces of evidence that together will build a very cogent and persuasive beyond a reasonable doubt narrative for the jury."

'At this point we can do no more than speculate,' said Tony Kavanagh, who heads up Cormier's defense team. (CBC/Lyza Sale)

"Often the police will take blood samples to confirm or deny a piece of evidence," said Tony Kavanagh, the senior litigator on Cormier's defence team, in a statement to CBC.

"Sometimes it is merely dotting the i's and crossing t's. It may not indicate new evidence. At this point we can do no more than speculate. Our client co-operated, but given so much time has gone by, he is naturally concerned."

Crown attorney James Ross had little to say on why a second DNA collection was necessary.

"I'm sure your curiosity will be satisfied when you hear the evidence," Ross told CBC.

"As a general rule we let the evidence come out in court. We don't discuss it in the press ahead of time. That's the best thing for a fair trial for Mr. Cormier," Ross said.

"The Crown intends to proceed to trial on January 29."

In an email statement, the Winnipeg Police Service said it will not comment on the case because it is before the courts.

Sixteen months after he was arrested for the murder of Tina Fontaine, police visited Raymond Cormier to extract a second set of DNA samples from the accused. 3:27

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