Manitoba

No eyewitnesses, no DNA in Kyllan Ellis 2nd-degree murder trial

After five days of evidence, closing arguments were made Monday morning in the Kyllan Ellis second-degree murder case.

Defence lawyer says lack of hard evidence hurts the Crown's case against his client

Kyllan Ellis is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Simone Sanderson. (CBC)

Kyllan Ellis sat up straight and completely still in the prisoner's box while his lawyer, Mike Cook, argued his defence.

On Monday, the jury of five women and seven men heard closing arguments in the second-degree murder case.

Ellis has pleaded not guilty to killing Simone Sanderson, whose body was found in an empty lot at the corner of Main Street and Burrows Avenue on Sept. 2, 2012.

Cook did not call any witnesses after the Crown wrapped up its case, which took five days, hearing from 12 witnesses.

"This was not an eyewitness case; not a single eyewitness took that stand and said 'I saw KE kill SS,'" said Cook during his closing argument. 

Cook said with no forensic or eyewitness evidence, his client could not be responsible for Sanderson's death. 

Ellis' DNA was taken when he was arrested in April 2016 and tested against 43 piece of evidence collected from where Sanderson's body was found. There were no DNA or fingerprint matches.

"I say to you, in my opinion, that is pretty strong evidence he was not on the lot that night and therefore cannot be the killer," said Cook. 

The second point of his argument was if the jury found Ellis guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it must consider self-defence.

Ellis' mother, Carol, testified her son told her he was jumped by a man, became involved in some sort of two-on-one altercation, and choked a girl.

Closing arguments in the Kyllan Ellis second degree murder trial

5 years ago
Duration 1:51
The jury in the trial of Kyllan Ellis will heard closing arguments Monday. Ellis has pleaded not guilty to murdering 23-year old Simone Sanderson.

Carol told the jury her son confessed this to her after she picked him up in the middle of the night from Redwood Avenue and Main on Aug. 27, 2012.

"Whatever Kyllan and his mom discussed, I don't think you can take that to the bank," said Cook, calling her memory into question.

During cross-examination, Cook questioned Carol about her ability to recall details because she struggled with alcoholism and depression.

Based on parents' testimony

He told the jury the Crown would not even have a case without the testimony of Ellis' parents. John Ellis testified his son told him "I think I may have killed someone."

During the father's testimony it was revealed that Ellis is a diagnosed schizophrenic who has had hallucinations in the past. 

"You cannot base a confession from the mouth of a boy who makes things up," said Cook.

His third and final point was that, if the jury finds Ellis guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they should consider manslaughter, not second-degree murder.
Simone Sanderson was 23 when she was killed. Her body was found in a lot in Winnipeg's North End in 2012. (Family photo)

"Why was Simone Sanderson killed?" Crown lawyer Joanna Kostiuk asked the jury during her closing remarks.

"I'll answer my rhetorical question: because she was trying to defend herself against Kyllan Ellis, not the other way around."

Defensive wounds

The autopsy revealed the 23-year-old died of blunt and sharp force trauma. She had cuts on both of her palms, which the pathologist called defensive wounds. 

Her jaw was broken, as were vertebrae and her hyoid bone, "[a] bone that is often fractured when force is applied to the exterior of the neck, strangulation," said Dr. Charles Littman, who conducted the autopsy.

Littman said the body was too decomposed to determine what kind of force caused those injuries.

A knife was found near Sanderson's body and it had only her DNA on it. The lead forensic investigator testified that the same brand of knife was found in Ellis' mother's house, but was not seized as evidence when a search warrant was executed after his arrest.

Sanderson was last seen on Aug. 26, 2012 on walking alone on Aikins Street to Mountain Avenue.

She was wearing a pink skort, a black top and flip flops and was the subject of a missing person's investigation until her body was found a week later.

Dr. Gail Anderson, a forensic entomologist, testified that by studying the maggots found on Sanderson's body, she believed the 23-year-old was dead by sunrise on Aug. 27.

Ellis was seen on surveillance video around the corner from where Sanderson's body was found at 1:30 a.m. on the Aug. 27. 

Video shows Kyllan Ellis walking down Magnus near where Simone Sanderson's body was found

5 years ago
Duration 1:36
Ellis is on trial for second-degree murder in relation to Sanderson's 2012 death.

Kostiuk asked the jury to remember what Ellis looked like on that video. She said he didn't look like he was hurt, referencing Carol Ellis' testimony. 

"There is no evidence of a set up, no evidence of a fight, we are saying that didn't happen," said Kostiuk.

Justice Chris Martin will give instructions to the jury Tuesday morning so they can begin deliberations.

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