Cardboard-covered body of Simone Sanderson found in empty lot, court hears

The trial of Kyllan James Ellis, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Simone Sanderson, started Monday morning.

Kyllan James Ellis charged with 2nd-degree murder in April 2016

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

The body of Simone Sanderson was covered "from head to toe" with a flattened piece of cardboard when she was found in 2012, a Winnipeg courtroom heard Monday.

The trial of Kyllan James Ellis, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sanderson, started Monday morning. Ellis, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested in April 2016. 

The woman who found 23-year-old's body in an empty lot at Main Street and Burrows Avenue was the first to testify in front of the jury of five women and seven men.

Kristy Donald said she was collecting beer cans and bottles with her boyfriend when she made the discovery.

She said her boyfriend found two full beer cans and she found a bottle of Smirnoff Ice sitting on top of a piece of flattened cardboard.

"I flipped it up thinking there would be empty beer cans under there, then I found the body," Donald said.

Simone Sanderson was found dead in September 2012. (Family photo)
Sanderson was face down, had yellowing bruises on her body and dried blood in her hair, Donald testified. Donald didn't see Sanderson's face and only found out who she was in following days.

Sanderson had been reported missing in the days before her body was found. The jury heard she was last seen wearing a pink skirt, black top and sandals.

Const. Doug Singleton, an investigator with the Winnipeg Police Service, collected evidence from the lot at Main and Burrows.

He testified that Sanderson's skirt, which he called a skort, was saturated in blood. 

"Because we didn't find any other blood around the body, we started searching other areas," he said.

Singleton and another investigator found blood and drag marks leading to where the body was lying.

Sanderson's body was in advance stages of decomposition and maggots were collected off of her neck and shoulder area as evidence, he said. 

Crown lawyer Joanna Kostiuk told the jury in her opening remarks that the court will hear from a forensic entomologist, who studied the bugs to determine when Sanderson was killed.

Friends and family of Simone Sanderson gather around a tree near Burrows Avenue and Main Street in May 2015 at a vigil for the 23-year-old, who was found dead in the area in 2012. (Courtney Rutherford/CBC)
Kostiuk told the jury this isn't a case of DNA and fingerprint evidence, but of police techniques used to arrest and charge Ellis with second-degree murder.

A filleting knife with hair and blood on it was found near Sanderson's body as well as a knife sheath that matched it. 

Singleton gathered 43 pieces of evidence from the Main Street scene, including a black shirt, one flip-flop, a black purse, used condom and wrappers, and the knife and sheath.

None of the items, including the cardboard that covered Sanderson's body, held fingerprint evidence, he said.

Ellis's lawyer, Mike Cook, said in an email before the trial started that his client maintains he is not guilty of murder but he could not comment further.

The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.

Kyllan Ellis on trial for the 2012 death of Simone Sanderson

5 years ago
Duration 1:33
The man accused of killing Simone Sanderson says he is not guilty. Kyllan Ellis was arrested in 2016 and charged with second degree murder.


Jillian Taylor is the Executive Producer of News at CBC Manitoba. She started reporting in 2007 and spent more than a decade in the field before moving behind the scenes. Jillian's journalism career has focused on covering issues facing Indigenous people, specifically missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is a born-and-raised Manitoban and a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation.