Crown in Kwasi Benjamin trial rejects theory that Nellie Angutiguluk killed herself

Wrapping up closing arguments in the second-degree murder trial, Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos asked jurors to ask themselves why the Inuk woman would make plans to see her mother, who was visiting from Nunavik, if she was suicidal.

Prosecutor asks why a suicidal woman would plan to see mother visiting from Nunavik the next day

Nellie Angutiguluk, 29, was found dead in the Côte-des-Neiges apartment she shared with her boyfriend, Kwasi Benjamin, in May 2015. (Chez Doris)

Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos wrapped up closing arguments in the murder trial of Kwasi Benjamin with a call for the jury to reject the defence's story that Nellie Angutiguluk killed herself.

Benjamin, 32, is being tried in Quebec Superior Court on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Angutiguluk, 29.

The Inuk mother of three was found dead in the couple's rented apartment in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges district in May 2015. She had moved to Montreal some time before from Puvirnituq, in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec.

Galiatsatos told the six women and six men on the jury at the root of the trial is the question,  "How did Nellie Angutiguluk die?"

Was she strangled, as the Crown believes, or did she kill herself, as the defence has argued.

Galiatsatos discounted the theory that a depressed Angutiguluk killed herself.

He said she planned to see her mother, who was visiting from Nunavik, the day after she died. He said making that plan is not the action of a woman who was determined to take her own life.

Pathologist's testimony key

The prosecutor went over the details of  the testimony from the pathologist, Dr. Caroline Tanguay, who told the court that if Angutiguluk had hanged herself from the clock radio cable on the pole in the bedroom closet, the cable would have left a different pattern of furrow marks on the neck than the ones found in the autopsy.

"The ligature marks would raise up behind the ears," Galiatsatos said, quoting Tanguay.  "She said they would be much more vertical than than the ones she saw on the body: they would form a 'V' towards a suspension point, which was absent here."

Tanguay's report cited 'ligature strangulation' as the cause of death.
Kwasi Alfred Benjamin, 32, is on trial for Nellie Angutiguluk's second-degree murder. (Montreal police)

Galiatsatos questioned Benjamin's behaviour. The accused testified that he had placed Angutiguluk in bed after finding her on the floor after the possible suicide attempt, believing she had passed out from the night of drinking.

He noted that Benjamin had then gone to work, staying away from the apartment for almost 10 hours instead of calling emergency services

"Did he not call 911 because he knew he killed her, and he needed time to think of what to do next?" asked Galiatsatos.

According to testimony, after Benjamin returned home, he waited almost three hours before calling for help. Galiatsatos asked jurors to consider why he didn't go for help right away.

"If he hadn't strangled her, wouldn't he have run out of that building, leaving a trail of smoke and dust, to get to that pay phone as quickly as possible?" he asked.

'Made-up stories' changed, says Crown

The prosecutor said Benjamin also told different stories to different people about the condition in which he found Angutiguluk when he returned from work.

The recording of the call from the pay phone to the 911 operator has Benjamin saying Angutiguluk was still breathing.

A paramedic who attended to Angutiguluk testified that Benjamin told him he helped the woman move and walk around.

Caleb Clark, the pastor at The Open Door, a downtown drop-in centre for homeless people, testified that Benjamin told him he believed Angutiguluk had died of an overdose.

Galiatsatos said the toxicology report found no evidence of drugs in the woman's system.

"If you conclude these were made-up stories by the accused," Galiatsatos asked the jury, "why would the accused make up fake stories if he had nothing to hide, if he hadn't strangled her?"

"Aren't these all, rather, attempts at diverting attention away from himself as a suspect of foul play?"

Galiatsatos told the jury he believes Benjamin killed Angutiguluk for two reasons: money problems between the couple, and the fact that the accused had a new girlfriend.

Testimony during the trial showed the two often argued over money. Benjamin said he would pay for Angutiguluk, who was unemployed.

"Some of the very last words heard spoken by the accused to the deceased were, 'Where's the f--king money?'" said Galiatsatos.

He also reminded the jury that the pastor, Clark, testified Benjamin introduced him to his new girlfriend when he showed up at Angutiguluk's memorial service. A witness who was detained along with Benjamin also testified that Benjamin had told him he had a new girlfriend.

"I submit to you respectfully that he did have the intent to kill when he strangled her," said Galiatsatos. He said the evidence does establish Benjamin's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Justice Michael Stober will begin his instructions to the jury Friday and finish on Monday, at which point the jury members will be sequestered to decide on Benjamin's fate.