Jury acquits man in drug-trade killing

A jury has found a Winnipeg man not guilty of killing a drug dealer in his Inkster Boulevard home.

Defence argued evidence pointed to woman who wasn't charged

54-year-old Ralph Edward Boehnlein was fatally shot in his Inkster Boulevard home Feb. 15, 2016. Matthew Valentine has been acquitted. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

A jury has found a Winnipeg man not guilty of killing a drug dealer in his Inkster Boulevard home.

Matthew Valentine stood trial for second-degree murder in the Feb. 15, 2016 shooting death of 54-year-old Ralph Edward Boehnlein. Jurors convicted Valentine of personation, finding he provided a false name to police when arrested and of breaching a court order that he not possess weapons.

Jurors deliberated approximately seven hours before delivering their verdict just before 8 p.m.

Prosecutors alleged Valentine, 25, and a woman known to Boehnlein, met at Boehnlein's home to buy prescription morphine tablets when Valentine shot him once in the chest, killing him.

"We say, in layman's terms, Rob Boehnlein died in the course of a robbery for morphine," Dan Angus said in a closing address to jurors. 

Prosecutors alleged Valentine and the woman fled the home and parted ways before meeting up at the woman's former in-laws' home on Aikins Street, where they were arrested a short time later. Police found a bag of weapons by Valentine's bed, including a cattle prod, a machete and two inoperable pellet guns.

Angus alleged the woman was "in the throes of an addiction" to morphine, and had Valentine accompany her as "muscle" to Boehnlein's home.

The woman testified she had tried two times in the previous two weeks to buy morphine from Boehnlein, without success.

Boehnlein's partner testified she walked into the house to see Boehnlein arguing with the woman about bringing a stranger to his home. The woman said the man hid his face behind a neck warmer and kept his hands in his jacket pockets.

Boehnlein told his partner to go to her room, after which she heard the woman allegedly say: "It didn't need to get to this point ... You really going to make me do this?"

Defence lawyer Ed Murphy argued those comments — and the fact gunshot residue was found on the woman, but not his client — pointed to her as the more likely killer.

Angus urged jurors to remember the testimony of a firearms expert who told court the presence or absence of gunshot residue alone does not prove someone did or did not shoot a firearm. Gunshot residue can be washed off or transferred to someone who is in close proximity to the gun when it is fired, Angus said. 

Valentine was sentenced to time served on the personation and weapons charges and released from custody.

The woman was never charged in Boehnlein's killing.

About the Author

Dean Pritchard

Court reporter

A reporter for over 20 years, CBC Manitoba's Dean Pritchard has covered the court beat since 1999, both in the Brandon region and Winnipeg. He can be contacted at dean.pritchard@cbc.ca.