Tina Fontaine looked younger than 15, shelter worker testifies

The trial of Raymond Cormier heard from several adults who saw 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in the weeks before she died.

Several adults who saw teen in weeks before she died testified on Monday at Raymond Cormier's trial

Tina Fontaine looked younger than 15, shelter worker testifies

4 years ago
Tina Fontaine looked younger than her age of 15, a worker at a temporary shelter testified at the trial of the man accused of killing the teen. 1:23

Tina Fontaine looked younger than her age of 15, a worker at a temporary shelter testified at the trial of the man accused of killing the teen.

Carole Traverse works at Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre, a 16-bed shelter for women and girls in Winnipeg's North End. Traverse testified on day six of the trial of Raymond Cormier, who is charged with second-degree murder. 

Fontaine's body was pulled out of the Red River near the Alexander Docks on Aug. 17, 2014, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks. She had gone missing on Aug. 9 from a downtown hotel where she was placed as a ward of Child and Family Services.

Traverse told court Fontaine stayed at Ndinawe for about one week in the summer of 2014, beginning on July 23.

Tina Fontaine stayed at Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre in July 2014. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

A picture was taken of Fontaine the day she arrived, and Traverse said she looked tiny. Fontaine's body weighed about 72 pounds (33 kg) when she was pulled from the Red River, pathologist Dennis Rhee testified earlier in the week. 

Fontaine was reported missing two times during her stay at Ndinawe for failing to return before the curfew of 10:30 p.m., once on July 26 and again on July 30.

She returned to Ndinawe shortly after Traverse filed the first missing person report. Her bed was given away after the second time.

Traverse says both disappearances were reported to police.

Tina Fontaine left clothes behind after she went missing from Ndinawe in July 2014. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

'She was happy'

The court also heard from several adults who saw Fontaine in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.

Lana Fontaine, Tina's aunt, said the teen stayed at her Furby Street apartment for two nights over the August long weekend.

She came by again a couple of nights later, saying she was cold and asking to borrow a sweater. Lana Fontaine says she gave her niece a belted white sweater, hugged her, and she left.

She said that was the last time she saw her niece alive, and began to cry.

"She was happy, always a bright smile, last time I saw her," she said. "She was my baby."

She noticed that her niece was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and had shaved her hair on one side of her head the last time she saw her.

Court heard next from Joseph Nanacowap, who had been in a relationship with Tina Fontaine's birth mother Valentina Duck.

Fed Fontaine every time she visited

Speaking in Ojibway through an interpreter, Nanacowap testified that he saw Fontaine at his house four or five times the summer that she died. Three times, she came with a boyfriend named Cody Mason, and came alone the other times. He testified that she would sleep on his couch when she stayed over.

When Crown prosecutor Breta Passler asked if he fed her when she would come to his house, he said "always." Passler asked him if she or her boyfriend ever appeared to be drunk or on drugs, and he said no.

Nanacowap said police came to his house two times, once when she was missing, and once after she had been found dead. He said the last time he saw Fontaine was a week before the police first came to his house.
Tina Fontaine had recently shaved the hair on the side of her head the last time her aunt Lana Fontaine saw her. (Winnipeg Police Service)

Angie Duck, Valentina Duck's sister, also told court that Fontaine visited her house in the weeks before her death. She said she saw Fontaine five or six times, and one time she was dropped off in a red truck.

On one occasion, Duck said Fontaine came with a boyfriend whose last name was Dumas. She couldn't remember his first name, saying it was either Larry or William. She said he was deaf.

Twice she came by with "her second boyfriend Cody," Duck said.

Wanted to be connected with her mom

During one visit on July 22, Fontaine took a picture of Duck and some other family members. She said she knew the date because the photo was posted on Facebook.

Duck said Fontaine didn't ask for anything when she would come by.

"She just wanted to know how she could get hold of her mom," she said. Duck said she would call Fontaine's mom, because the teen didn't have a cellphone, and her mom would come and pick her up.

Duck said didn't know where Fontaine was staying in Winnipeg.

"She doesn't tell me what she was doing," she said.

The last time Duck saw Tina was a couple days after her visit on July 22, when she saw her walking past her house. "She was all dressed up right," she said, meaning that Fontaine was wearing nice clothing. 

The last person to testify on Monday was Steven Whitehurst. He said he is a longtime friend of Fontaine's father Eugene Fontaine, and said he had known Tina "since she was in Pampers."

He said she came to his house three or four times in the summer of 2014.

On at least one occasion, she came by with her boyfriend Cody. One time she had a box and some bags of clothes and Whitehurst said he thought she might stay the night, but she didn't.

The last time he heard from Fontaine was on July 28, when he and his wife were driving to Fort Alexander on Sagkeeng First Nation, Fontaine's home community. She had mentioned that she might want a ride, and messaged Whitehurst asking if he had already left, but he had.

Fingerprint analyst testifies

Earlier Monday morning, court heard from fingerprint analysis expert Const. Garrett Carrette. He told the court that on Sept. 18, 2014 he was asked to examine a stolen truck that had been recovered by police, and that it was suspected Tina Fontaine had been in it.

No fingerprints found inside this truck could be matched to either Tina Fontaine or Raymond Cormier. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

Carrette testified that the front door window had been smashed and there was blood on the vehicle. He also said it looked as if the truck had been wiped down on the inside and out.

He was able to lift three fingerprints from the vehicle, but none matched Fontaine or Raymond Cormier. A palm print found in the vehicle couldn't be matched to Fontaine, because he didn't have a sample of Fontaine's palm print, he said.

Court was told the truck was recovered 43 days after Fontaine called 911 to say her friend Sebastian had stolen a truck. The jury was previously told "Sebastian" is one of the names Cormier used to go by.

The trial resumes Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.


Cameron MacLean

Online Reporter

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.

With files from Caroline Barghout