Winnipeg man pleads not guilty to first-degree murder in death of three-year-old boy

A trial has begun for a Winnipeg man accused of stabbing and killing his domestic partner’s three-year-old son.

Jurors are hearing evidence in the case against Daniel Jensen who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and is presumed innocent in the November 2019 death of Hunter Smith-Straight.

It’s the Crown’s position he was killed because of Jensen’s rage towards the boy’s mom.

On the first day of the case in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, the jury heard the audio from a call to 911. First responders were dispatched after the child was found with six stab wounds to his neck and head in a bedroom at a home on Pritchard Ave. in the early hours of Oct. 30, 2019.

Const. Derrick Klassen, an officer with the Winnipeg Police Service, testified he and his partner were the first ones to arrive at the home just after 2:30 that morning.

“When I first saw him, immediately I believed he was deceased upon seeing him,” Klassen told the jury.

They heard officers and paramedics performed CPR before Smith-Straight, who still had a pulse, was taken to hospital in critical condition and placed on life support. He died Nov. 2.

Jensen, who had been in a domestic relationship with Smith-Straight’s mom was bound by a court order not to have contact with her.

In her opening statement, Crown attorney Courtney St. Croix told jurors the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death support the charge.

“At its core, we say this is a case about domestic violence.” St. Croix told the jury. “A case about a man who had so much rage towards his domestic partner he made a decision to hurt her in the cruellest and most permanent way—by taking the life of her only child.”

The Crown told jurors evidence and witness testimony will show there was a physical altercation at a bar between Jensen and Smith-Straight’s mom. St. Croix told jurors Jensen then walked to the home on Pritchard where the boy was sleeping and stabbed him multiple times.

“This was not an accident. This was not an impulsive act. This was deliberate,” St. Croix told the jury. “All because he was mad at Hunter’s mom.”

In addition to Klassen, jurors also heard testimony from four other Winnipeg police officers Monday who attended the scene and spoke to witnesses outside and inside the home where Smith-Straight was found stabbed.

One officer testified upon arriving a witness told him the suspect was gone and the boy was inside.

More officers and Smith-Straight’s mom are expected to testify Tuesday.

Justice Herbert Rempel told the court 14 jurors were selected to hear evidence in the case to make sure there’s a complete jury at the end of the 20-day trial. One juror has already been excused due to non-COVID health concerns, bringing the group down to 13.

Only 12 jurors will be allowed to deliberate to reach a verdict.

As a precaution to protect against the spread of COVID-19, jurors are masked and sitting spaced out in the courtroom. Crown and defence lawyers are separated by plexiglass barriers.