Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Fourth accused on trial for unprovoked death of woman
WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg jury has heard a dramatic 911 call which captures a woman’s final moments alive.
Blair Johnson broke down in tears Tuesday as he testified about finding Audrey Cooper nude and unconscious outside his downtown apartment block. A tape of his frantic call for help was played in court.
"Her face is really swollen. She’s been beaten really bad. Her head is caved in," Johnson told the dispatcher. "If you don’t hurry up, she’s going to be dead."
Cooper, 34, didn’t survive the random October 2006 attack, which police have called one of the worst homicides in recent memory.
The woman suffered 64 separate injuries in the unprovoked attack, including seven broken ribs, a lacerated liver, swelling that shut both of her eyes and bleeding on the brain. Her killers also removed her clothes and stole loose change from her pockets.
An 18-year-old man — who can’t be named because he was 15 at the time of the slaying — is now on trial for second-degree murder. Three teenaged girls have already pleading guilty to their roles.
Johnson told court he woke up to sounds of a struggle outside of his Spence Street rooming house. He walked outside and found Cooper laying unconscious near the front doorway. A teenaged boy had been "hovering" over her body but quickly fled.
He ran back to his suite to call 911 and grab a blanket to cover her up. Johnson gave the dispatcher frequent updates about Cooper’s breathing, which was becoming increasingly shallow. He also cleared her airway and was told to start CPR, only to have police and paramedics arrive on scene to take over.
Johnson said he knew Cooper from the neighbourhood and was stunned at the brutality of what was done to her.
"I knew her enough to know she was a pleasant young girl," he said. Defence lawyer Ian Histed questioned whether Cooper was a cocyouthaine addict who had worked in the sex trade. Johnson said he believed that was true.Police arrested four suspects — the boy, a 12-year-old girl and two 14-year-old girls. The youngest girl pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and was given the maximum sentence of two years custody and one year of community supervision. She will be called as a witness against the young man. The two other girls pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were given the maximum youth sentence of four years of custody and three years of community supervision.
Jurors heard grisly details Tuesday of the fatal injuries Audrey Cooper suffered in a random attack outside her Spence Street rooming house.
“Her face basically looked like a pile of hamburger,” rooming house resident Blair Johnson told court.
Johnson said he was awakened by loud slamming noises outside the house shortly before 3 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2006. Johnson said he opened the front door to investigate and saw a teenage boy crouching over Cooper’s naked body.
“He turned around and bolted down Spence Street,” Johnson said.
A now 18-year-old man is on trial charged with second-degree murder.
Johnson said he draped a blanket over Cooper’s body and alerted another resident, Ralph Edward, who was already calling 911.
“I don’t even want to move her,” Edward, who has since died, told a 911 operator. “Her head is really swollen ... Her head is caved in.”
The accused was one of four youths arrested following Cooper’s death. Two girls, both 14 at the time of Cooper’s death, have since pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. A third girl, who was 12 at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
At a preliminary hearing for the 12-year-old girl, Edward testified he saw what looked like a puddle of urine around Cooper’s body.
“There is an outside possibility it could have been blood,” Johnson told court in August 2007. “It appeared to be clear.”
Const. Angela Prefontaine and her partner arrived at the house two minutes after Edward called 911.
“All she was wearing was an ankle sock on her right foot,” Prefontaine told court Tuesday.
Cooper’s head was extremely swollen and covered in blood and one ear had been partially severed, Prefontaine said.
“She looked like a fly, her eyes were so bulged out and bruised,” she said.
It`s horrible what happened to this woman and how she was treated and killed. But I think both of these stories are biased in that they fail to mention the defence arguments or questions from cross-examination of witnesses. They are only focused on the victim and the gruesome and sensational aspects of the story.