Defence points finger at victim’s cousin for fatally stabbing 3-year-old Winnipeg boy

Lawyers for a Winnipeg man on trial for murdering three-year-old Hunter Smith-Straight two years ago pointed the finger at the child’s cousin as the person responsible for his death.

Daniel Jensen, who was dating Hunter’s mom at the time, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the boy’s death in November 2019. Jensen's trial is being heard by a jury in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.

Austin Bruyere, Hunter’s cousin, took the stand Thursday as a witness in the case. He told jurors he was home on Pritchard Avenue with Hunter when his younger cousin was found stabbed in his bed at around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2019.

“I was in shock,” Bruyere told jurors at Jensen’s trial. “He was like a little brother to me.”

The Crown alleges Jensen got mad at Hunter’s mom after a night of arguing and physical altercations between the two of them while out with friends and family on Oct. 29, 2019.

It is the prosecution’s position Jensen left a bar, walked to the home on Pritchard and repeatedly stabbed Hunter in his sleep.

Bruce Bonney, Jensen’s lawyer, suggested to Bruyere during cross-examination he is the one responsible for Hunter’s death.

“You went into the room, took a knife in there and stabbed Hunter,” Bonney said to Bruyere.

“I didn’t do it,” Bruyere testified.

Bonney argued Bruyere was mad the boy wouldn’t listen when Bruyere asked Hunter to go to bed.

“I’m suggesting you were blacked out and you were angry and you did something to Hunter,” Bonney said in court.

“That’s just crazy,” Bruyere told the jury.

Bruyere lived in the second-floor suite of the home along with Hunter, Hunter’s mom Clarice Smith, and Jensen. Other relatives lived in the main floor suite.

Bruyere testified he didn’t see Jensen in the house that morning or hear anything because he was in his room sleeping after waking up hours earlier and damaging the upper suite. Bruyere admitted to a jury he had blacked out from day drinking and got angry upon waking up around 10 p.m. on Oct. 29.

“I remember waking up and it was nighttime already,” Bruyere testified. “Nobody was around so I started freaking out.”

“I started throwing plates around and cups and bowls and then I punched a hole in my door.”

He told jurors he cut up his hands in the process. The injuries that were documented in photos taken by the Winnipeg Police Service when Bruyere was interviewed as a witness in Hunter’s death.

“They were bleeding pretty bad,” he told the jury. “They were dripping everywhere. I was wiping my hands on my pants.”

The jury heard he had blood on his clothing and agreed to provide a sample of his blood to detectives.

“I knew that they were not going to find Hunter’s blood on my pants,” Bruyere testified. “It was mine.”

Justice Herbert Rempel instructed the jury at the end of the trial it’ll be up to them to determine whether Bruyere’s evidence alone or together with other evidence raises a reasonable doubt about whether Jensen killed Hunter.

Keith Mann, the common-law partner of Hunter’s aunt, testified he was drinking with Hunter’s mom Clarice and Jensen the day before Hunter was found.

He told the court he heard Jensen threaten Clarice.

“Stuff like…I’ll take Hunter from you…you’ll never see him again, like threats towards Clarice,” Keith testified.

Jensen’s lawyers questioned Keith about why he didn’t share that information earlier with police investigators when he gave them a statement the morning Hunter was found stabbed.

“The first time you told us was today sitting in the box, answering Ms. Mann’s (the Crown attorney) questions,” Bonney said to Keith.

“It’s not that I didn’t remember, it’s just I wasn’t asked that question,” Keith testified.

The jury has previously been told they can expect to hear evidence the blood on Bruyere’s clothing didn’t come from Hunter.

They were told to expect evidence the clothing Jensen was wearing had blood on it that matched the profile of Hunter’s DNA.

Jensen is presumed innocent.

The trial continues.