Manitoba

Accused found not criminally responsible in vicious stabbing of Winnipeg basketball player

A rising basketball star from Winnipeg has been found not criminally responsible in the vicious stabbing of his brother's girlfriend last spring.

Junior Sesay was charged with attempted murder in attack on Lena Wenke

Junior Sesay, 21, has been found not criminally responsible in connection with the vicious stabbing of Lena Wenke, 20, in the West End last spring. (CBC)

A former rising basketball star from Winnipeg has been found not criminally responsible in the vicious stabbing of his brother's girlfriend last spring.

Junior Sesay, who was the Winnipeg AAAA high school basketball player of the year in 2013, was charged with attempted murder, robbery, and breaking and entering in connection with the attack that saw Lena Wenke, 20, stabbed more than 40 times. 

During his trial court heard that Sesay barged into Wenke's West End home during the early morning hours of May 23, 2017. She was found outside the home, bloodied and left for dead.

At the time, police said Wenke, a women's basketball player with the U of W program, suffered "unbelievable" injuries.

She was on life support for 24 hours after the attack and ultimately survived.

Police block off part of Ellice Avenue, between Downing Street and Garfield Street N. (Sabrina Carnevale/CBC)

The court case against Sesay, which heard closing arguments in July, rested on whether he was aware his actions were legally and morally wrong.

Defence attorney James Wood argued his client, suffering from psychotic delusions, believed his actions were appropriate, and thus he should not be held criminally responsible.

Sesay saw no other recourse but to kill Wenke, who he thought was involved in a group chat that made fun of him and wanted him to kill himself, Wood said.

The group chat never existed.

In his closing argument at the trial, Crown prosecutor Colin Soul painted a picture of a man who knew what he was doing, saying Sesay penned a note foretelling the killing.

The Crown urged the judge to give little weight to the argument of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Waldman, who said Sesay's delusions and schizophrenic symptoms kept him from knowing his actions were morally wrong.

'Paranoid delusions'

In his Oct. 22 decision, Judge Brian Corrin sided with the defence, finding Sesay not criminally responsible on both the attempted murder and break and enter charges.

"It is my overall impression that the opinion evidence of Dr. Waldman is supported by the evidence," said Corrin in the decision. "There is ample evidence of Mr. Sesay's paranoid delusions leading up to the offence.

"I am satisfied, based on all the evidence, that it is more likely than not, because of his delusional beliefs that his life was being threatened by a conspiratory chat group which the victim belonged to, that Mr. Sesay believed his actions were morally justifiable."

Corrin did find the former basketball player guilty on the robbery charges, which stem from Sesay fleeing in a vehicle stolen from a Good Samaritan who stopped after driving past Wenke and Sesay near Dominion Street and Ellice Avenue following the attack.

Winnipeg's basketball community is reeling after a female player from the University of Winnipeg was brutally assaulted and another player is charged with attempted murder. 1:50

"I do not find, for the reasons provided by Dr. Waldman, that Mr. Sesay's mental disorder rendered him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality or moral wrongfulness of his actions in relation to the robbery," reads the decision.

"Accordingly he is convicted of this offence."

Sesay was known as a rising basketball star while he was attending Oak Park High School. When he graduated in 2013, he was named the Winnipeg AAAA boys basketball player of the year.

Sesay then played for the University of Victoria men's basketball team on a scholarship. He stayed two years before returning to Winnipeg, where he attended a pre-season training camp with the University of Winnipeg's Wesmen but was dismissed because of an argument with a teammate.

With files from Ian Froese