WINNIPEG – The man accused of killing an Indigenous teenager and dumping her body in the Red River told police he didn’t do it, and urged them to search for a suspect who looked like the lead singer of rock group Led Zeppelin.
“Don’t focus on me,” Raymond Cormier told police during a 90-minute videotaped interview from Oct. 1, 2014, part of which was played in court Wednesday.
“What happened to Tina was wrong.”
Cormier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine, a petite 15-year-old girl whose body was found in the Red River, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, on Aug 17, 2014.
She had spent most of her life on the Sagkeeng First Nation and travelled to Winnipeg in late June of 2014 to reconnect with her birth mother. Court was told she became a sexually exploited youth.
Cormier, 55, said he met Tina several times that summer and sometimes provided her and her boyfriend a place to stay overnight.
In the video interview, Cormier told police he last saw Tina sometime in August after her boyfriend had left the city to return to a northern First Nations community.
Tina had come to a home where Cormier was staying with friends, he said, and got upset when Cormier took a bicycle she had and sold it for marijuana. The two argued outside, he said, and he followed Tina as she walked away down the street.
“She’s just yelling and screaming and I’m yelling and screaming and … I got pissed off and threw her weed at her feet and – gone, see you later,” Cormier sajd in the video.
“And then I went back to (the house).”
Cormier told the two officers interviewing him that there was a man walking in the same direction as Tina on the other side of the street, a little bit behind her.
Cormier told police they should seek the man out as a person of interest, and then gave a description – a white skin, middle-aged man with shoulder-length dirty blonde hair who looked like a famous singer.
“Robert Plant,” Cormier said.
“Led Zeppelin?,” one of the officers asks.
The man had not said anything, Cormier added.
Cormier said he couldn’t recall the date, but felt it was on a weekend just before Tina’s body was found.
Court has already been told Tina’s boyfriend flew to St. Theresa Point on Aug. 6 – a Wednesday two days before she was last seen by social workers.
Earlier in the day, court heard from Sgt. Shauna Neufeld of the Winnipeg Police Service’s missing person’s unit. She said Child and Family Services got involved with Tina after her great aunt, who raised the girl in Sagkeeng, couldn’t find her and asked for help.
Tina ran away from hotels and a youth shelter four times in the summer of 2014. The last time was on Aug. 8.
Tina had fallen asleep that morning in a parkade and was taken to hospital. The doctor who treated her said Tina had told paramedics she had taken the prescription drug Gabapentin, along with marijuana and alcohol.
A urine test found evidence of amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and alcohol. The doctor was concerned Tina might have been sexually exploited and offered a gynecological exam which Tina refused, she said.
Tina was released into the custody of social worker Kim Chute, who took her to a downtown hotel.
On the way, Chute said, Tina described having an older male friend who was going to give her a bicycle.
“She said she was hanging out with a 62-year-old man named Sebastian who was a meth user,” Chute testified.
Tina’s boyfriend, Cody Mason, has testified Cormier went by the name Sebastian at the time.
Chute dropped off Tina at the hotel under the care of a private company employee who monitored Child and Family Services kids housed there.
But Tina immediately left for a nearby shopping centre, saying she wanted to meet up with friends.
“Did she tell you who those friends were?,” Cormier’s lawyer asked Chute under cross-examination.
“No, she didn’t,” Chute replied.
The next day, Tina was reported missing. Eight days after that, Tina’s body was found.