What the jury didn't hear in the double murder trial of Ugo Fredette

The jury in the double murder trial of Ugo Fredette has finished its first full day of deliberations in the case at the Saint-Jérôme courthouse. We can now report what was discussed in the courtroom while the jury was absent.

Fredette triggered the longest Amber Alert in Quebec history, but jurors were never told a child was in danger

Ugo Fredette, 44, is facing two counts of first-degree murder. The jury is now deliberating in his case. (Radio-Canada)

The jury in the double murder trial of Ugo Fredette has finished its first full day of deliberations at the Saint-Jérôme courthouse.

Nine men and three women are deciding the 44-year-old man's fate. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the September 2017 deaths of his former spouse, Véronique Barbe, 41, and 71-year-old Yvon Lacasse, a man he encountered at a highway rest stop.

On Thursday, the jury asked to hear four key pieces of testimony again. They listened to recordings of testimony from the accused, the couple's therapist, a former neighbour and that of a nine-year-old child who was partial witness to the events.

Jury's options

In her instructions to the jury, Superior Court Justice Myriam Lachance said in order to find Fredette guilty of Barbe's first-degree murder, the jurors must be persuaded that Fredette harassed her and forcibly confined her in the lead-up to her death.

As for the death of Lacasse, in order to find Fredette guilty of first-degree murder, the jury must be convinced that he had set out to kill the older man, or that he had killed him while forcibly confining the young child who was with Fredette when he fled Barbe's home.

Should he be found guilty of first-degree murder on both counts, Fredette could face 50 years in prison without a chance of parole. That would see him behind bars until he was at least 91 years old.

Fredette's lawyer, Louis-Alexandre Martin, has asked the jury to find his client guilty of manslaughter in both cases.

The judge offered several possible verdicts: if they are satisfied Fredette killed one or the other victim without premeditation, the jurors could find Fredette guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole for 10 to 25 years.

Lachance said they could also find Fredette guilty of manslaughter, if they believe Fredette didn't intend to kill his victims or if they are uncertain about his intent.

What the jury didn't hear

Now that the jury is deliberating, what was discussed in the courtroom while the jury was absent can be reported.

The jury was never made privy to statements from a six-year-old child who was in the home at the time Fredette killed Barbe.

The child was with Fredette for about 24 hours, from the time the man left the home after stabbing Barbe until Fredette's arrest in Ontario.

While the jury was not sitting, defence lawyer Louis-Alexandre Martin said the child told investigators it was Barbe who first attacked Fredette with a knife, a version of events which is consistent with the case Martin put forward to jurors. 

That was just one of many elements that could have had an influence on the trial which the jury did not hear.

Martin told Lachance that police only explored the murder theory and did not investigate other possibilities.

But because the child did not testify and his statements were not entered as evidence, Martin could not reveal those details to the jury.

In his testimony, Sûreté du Québec investigator Mathieu Rollin suggested the boy could have been influenced by Fredette during the 24 hours they were together, so investigators did not follow up on the boy's statement.

Crown protested defence opening comments

Martin's opening arguments in the trial led to one of Crown prosecutor Steve Baribeau's more animated moments.

After Martin had finished his arguments, Baribeau asked for the jury to leave the room. He told the presiding judge that Martin's account of what happened in the lead-up to the two deaths was "totally illegal."

"If I had given an opening statement like that, you would have asked for the trial to be aborted," an exasperated Baribeau told Lachance, his voice raised. He said Martin "can't just say anything to the jury."

Martin said he was only telling the jury what Fredette himself would explain in his own testimony. 

"I did not give any opinions," Martin said.

In the end, Lachance instructed jurors to base their analysis of what happened on evidence "presented, or to be presented, in this court." 

Longest Amber alert in Quebec history

The jury was also not made aware that Fredette was responsible for the longest Amber Alert in Quebec history, nor do they know why police issued the alert.

The Crown and the defence agreed with Lachance that it would be prejudicial toward Fredette to reveal the alert — a special bulletin to notify the public about a child abduction — launched because the child who had been with Fredette was in danger. 

The jury was also not made aware that Fredette had pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with his run from the law.

He was sentenced to three months in prison on charges of dangerous driving, refusing to pull over, resisting arrest and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Provoked or premeditated?

Defence lawyer Martin argued that Fredette was provoked by Barbe. He told the jury that Barbe had constantly put the defendant down and denigrated him on social media.

In his testimony, Fredette told jurors "the wires crossed" during an argument with Barbe over her desire to sell their house in Saint-Eustache. He said she pushed him and attacked him with a knife. 

Fredette told jurors he blacked out after that moment and that his next memory was seeing Barbe's lifeless body on the floor. 

He then left the home with the young boy who witnessed the event, to protect the child, he said.

Fredette testified that about an hour's drive away, he pulled over at a rest stop and stopped to relieve himself in a wooded area. When he came back to his vehicle, Fredette said, he saw his second victim, Yvon Lacasse, grasping the boy by the hands, appearing to pull the child toward him. 

"I thought he was trying to kidnap him," Fredette told the jury.

A fight ensued, and after Fredette used a judo move on him, the defendant testified, the man fell, hit his head and died. Again, it was an accident, Fredette said.

The body of Yvon Lacasse, 71, after a week of searching, was found in a wooded area along Chemin de la Rouge, a gravel road that runs parallel to the Rouge River. (Sûreté du Québec )

Fredette left the rest stop in Lacasse's vehicle, with the man's body in the back. He dumped Lacasse's body in a wooded area about an hour's drive further north of the rest stop.

Barbe felt 'terrorized' by her ex: Crown

Fredette's lawyer urged the jury to find his client guilty of manslaughter, rather than the more serious charge of first-degree murder.

The Crown's Baribeau told jurors that both murders were premeditated and that Fredette had forcibly confined both Barbe and the boy, which would warrant a first-degree murder conviction under the Criminal Code. 

Baribeau said Fredette, unwilling to accept that his relationship with Barbe was over, harassed her in the days before he went to the Saint-Eustache home and stabbed her 17 times. 

Baribeau chronicled for the jury more than 179 text messages Fredette sent Barbe in the days before she died, begging her to stay with him.

Baribeau told the jury that Barbe, on the day before she died, told a family therapist she felt "terrorized" by Fredette. 

"It wasn't just any term she used," said Baribeau. "Don't forget that."

In the case of Lacasse's death, the Crown said, the evidence also pointed to a level of premeditation.

Baribeau said only eight minutes passed between the time of Fredette's arrival at the rest stop and his departure with Lacasse's vehicle.

"He beat Lacasse to death to steal his car and continue fleeing with the boy who was with him," Baribeau said. "It's a logical inference to make." 

Baribeau said the notion of forcible confinement applied in this instance, as well, because the boy was confined with Fredette from the moment they left the house until the next day, when Fredette was arrested in Ontario.

As police in that province confronted Fredette, the boy was with him — being held by the neck.

With files from Radio-Canada's Geneviève Garon