Friday, September 19, 2014
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Dad's slaying devastated teen

Father's killing started downward spiral for Tina Fontaine

By: Mike McIntyre

Winnipeg Free Press

Tina Fontaine's last few years were filled with sadness and darkness, much of it, family members say, triggered by the violent killing of her father.


The 2011 slaying of Eugene Fontaine at Sagkeeng First Nation started the girl's downward slide. She became a chronic runaway, was exploited on the streets and put in Child and Family Services care before her life ended earlier this month at the age of 15.

Eugene Fontaine was Bryan Favel's cousin. Favel told the Free Press this week Tina became a different person after her father was slain. "It was hard for all of us. It just hit her the worst. She was very happy, very outgoing and then she just stopped. She stopped caring about school, everything," he said.

Police are searching for Tina's killer after her body was found Sunday, wrapped in a bag, in the Red River. It was a tattoo on her back -- bearing her father's name, date of birth and death -- that identified her.

A ceremony is set for this weekend in which Tina's ashes will be scattered over the grave of her dad in Sagkeeng, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The Free Press reviewed an extensive court file of Eugene Fontaine's case, which remains before the courts. It provides a glimpse into the girl's world. A world of violence, addiction and grief.

Nicholas Abraham, 25, and Jonathon Starr, 32, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last May after the Crown agreed to drop more serious charges of second-degree murder. They are set to be sentenced Oct. 15.

Tina would have had an opportunity to provide a victim-impact statement in front of the two men who killed her father.

Details of his homicide emerged during a February 2013 preliminary hearing in Pine Falls, which can now be reported since the accused pleaded guilty.

Eugene Fontaine -- known to his killers as "Geno" -- had gone to Starr's home on the afternoon of Oct. 30, 2011 to socialize. He was joined by his friend, Abraham.

The three men spent the next few hours sharing a massive amount of alcohol. Two 24-packs of Budweiser, and three 15-packs of beer were consumed. As well, Fontaine had taken Tylenol 3 pills, which they crushed into powder, then snorted using a $100 bill, court was told. Cocaine was also consumed.

In the early morning, an argument about money broke out between the extremely intoxicated men.

Starr accused Fontaine of owing him money. Fontaine denied that. Words turned to fists and things quickly got out of hand.

Starr's sister, Tiffanie Bruyere, was a key witness for police and the Crown. She was in the home and watched the violence unfold. "It got real serious when they wanted some more money for alcohol. They took him outside and hurt him real bad," Bruyere testified at the preliminary hearing.

She described how Starr and Abraham went "buggo" and began repeatedly kicking and punching Fontaine until he could no longer defend himself.

"He was beaten, kicked and stomped for a lengthy period," the Crown said in a statement of facts presented in court.

Fontaine was dragged to a shed, tied up and left to die while covered with a bloody tarp. An autopsy showed he suffered "acute subdural hematoma" as a result of blunt-force trauma to his head and face.

RCMP were called to Starr's home on the morning of Oct. 31. Both men initially claimed they were innocent, saying they'd just found the body while throwing out empty beer cans.

"We were trying to wake him up. I don't even know who he is," Starr said in a transcript of his initial police interview.

"I just heard moaning and groaning and all of a sudden there's a guy just sprawled out there and laying down. I'm like 'Geno, Geno, get up,' " said Abraham.

Their story quickly unravelled.

An RCMP officer noticed Abraham's clothes and shoes had blood on them. It was later found to be Fontaine's blood.

Abraham confessed, blaming most of it on Starr.

"He was just ragging him around like a rag doll," Abraham told police in an interview that day.

He claimed he tried to stop Starr but was threatened with violence. Starr also confessed when confronted by police.

Defence lawyers planned to fight the case on the grounds statements given by both accused were inadmissible. They were going to argue Starr suffers from fetal alcohol disorder that left him unable to understand his charter rights. And they were going to claim Abraham was still extremely intoxicated at the time and police mishandled his interview.

Those efforts were dropped as a result of the plea deal.

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