'I lost control of myself': Accused testifies in Patrick Dong murder trial
A 19-year-old woman on trial for murder took the stand in her own defense telling the court she did not mean to kill Patrick Dong, 37, after she stabbed him in the leg.
She told the court she feared for her life, thinking Dong would come after her for beating him up and leaving him outside the city.
The agreed statement of facts submitted at trial says the accused stabbed Dong six times in the leg, leading him to bleed out and die on Oct. 22, 2016.
The woman faces a charge of first-degree murder and a sentence of life in prison. She cannot be named in the trial as she was 17-years-old at the time of the murder.
On Tuesday the Crown wrapped up its case against the accused and on Wednesday the trial resumed with her in the witness box.
Defense lawyer Carson Demmans asked the accused to take the court through the events leading to Dong’s death.
Looking for a confession
Shortly after joining the Indian Posse in the fall of 2016, the accused starting dating a man who offered a place to stay with him and his brother.
She and her boyfriend stayed in the basement of the three-story house and the court learned the victim, Dong, was an occasional boarder who slept on a couch on the main floor of the house.
The court heard how the accused’s roommate came home angry one day, telling the accused that someone had stolen a couple of speakers and he was going over to a house on Avenue D South to confront him. The suspected thief was Dong.
The accused told the court she and her roommate smoked about two grams of meth and split a 26-ounce bottle of whiskey before heading over to Avenue D.
The court heard how a couple of men accused Dong of stealing speakers and a cellphone, and once they grew tired of Dong’s denial, they loaded up Dong and his belongings into a truck belonging to Claude Gauthier. Gauthier is currently serving a seven-year sentence for his role in Dong’s death.
The accused testified there were six people in the truck including herself and the victim. As they drove around others continued to berate Dong, trying to get him to admit he was a thief. But Dong continued to plea his innocence.
The accused admitted in court she was carrying a folding knife at the time but it was in her pocket.
Earlier in the trial witnesses told court they saw the accused playing with a rainbow-coloured switchblade. The accused described the knife she was carrying as a gold-tipped with a wooden handle.
A trip out of Saskatoon wasn’t the plan
After failing to pull a confession from Dong, one of the men in the truck threatened to drive Dong outside of the city and leave him there. The accused testified when she got into the truck she didn’t know the plan and she didn’t know they were driving Dong out of Saskatoon.
Once the truck pulled onto a gravel road off Highway 60 southwest of Saskatoon, the accused says Gauthier stopped the truck and Dong, the accused, and another man got out of the truck.
She said she saw the other man hitting Dong with a metal pole. The accused said she grabbed a bat from Gauthier’s truck and went over to Dong and started swinging, hitting his back and ribs. Eventually Dong fell to the ground and another man dragged his body to the side of the road stating he didn’t want Dong to be run over.
Scared for her life and fearing retaliation from Dong, the accused said she went over and stabbed Dong in the leg. She told court she remembers stabbing Dong only once and then getting back into the truck.
“It wasn’t my intent to kill him, it wasn’t my intention to beat him up,” she told the court adding she was still very intoxicated from earlier.
“I lost control of myself and I did something stupid.”
Crown witnesses who were in the truck with the accused testified she was hysterical and incredibly happy that she got the chance to stab someone.
Friends urged accused to turn herself in
The accused told the court when she returned home she jumped into the shower as tears flowed down her face. She said she lied to her boyfriend, telling him she had another fight with her mother.
In the days following the murder, the accused told the court she couldn’t stop crying and had intense nightmares. She burned all the clothes and shoes she wore that night and she dumped the knife and the bat she used on Dong into the South Saskatchewan River.
She told court the only person she spoke to about that night was her boyfriend’s roommate who beat Dong in the head with a metal pole. She said the man urged her to go to police, but the accused said she was too scared and she wasn’t ready to go to jail as she was trying to mend the relationship with her mother.
Her drug use after the murder increased, the accused said. She added she and her boyfriend were couch-surfing from April to June 2017 and her excessive drug use continued. In an effort to sleep, the accused said she became dependent on downers.
The accused told the court she never returned to the home on Avenue D South. This contradicts the testimony from other witnesses who claim the accused returned to the Riversdale home demanding money from one of the passengers, saying she “did this for him.”
Accused attempted suicide following arrest
After her arrest the accused was held at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre in Regina. There she recalls receiving medication for depression and relying on melatonin to sleep. It wasn’t long after she was admitted that she tried to choke herself to death with her bedsheet.
She told the court she wrapped the sheet around her neck twice and pulled as hard as she could. She told the court she pleaded with guards to let her die, adding she didn’t deserve to be alive because she killed someone.
Struggles with addiction, abuse
The accused told the court how she lived with her mother in Saskatoon, describing traumatic moments where she was sexually and physically abused by family members between the ages of three and nine.
At age 13 she became addicted to crack and by 16 she was using crystal meth on a daily basis. A house fire at her home in Saskatoon forced her and her mother to move to Biggar, about 94 kilometres west of Saskatoon.
Describing an increasingly tumultuous relationship with her mother, the accused moved in with her father who lived in Meadow Lake. That stint didn’t last long as the accused didn’t get along with another person living at her father’s home. She quickly moved back to Biggar where her mother and a friend were living.
The accused, 16 at the time, said her relationship with her mother didn’t improve and she frequently smoked crystal meth and drank alcohol on a daily basis. Fed up with her mother, the accused said she moved to Saskatoon and that’s when her drug use “skyrocketed.”
From smoking meth two to three times a week with her mother’s friend, she was using on a daily basis living with her boyfriend.
She told the court her “drug addiction was overruling everything in my life.” When she wasn’t getting high she said she would sleep, sometimes all day if she knew she couldn’t get high.
Once her boyfriend was arrested, the accused said she quickly sought the support of the Indian Posse gang in Saskatoon.
She started staying with gang members in a home and smoking about a gram of meth each day.
Crown presses witness on intent
In his cross-examination Crown prosecutor Michael Pilon sought to show the court the accused had intent to kill Dong and that she knew the plan to kill Dong from the start.
Pilon referenced the accused’s testimony to police when she was arrested in June 2017. Pilon told the court the accused told police that they were taking Dong outside of the city “to give him a licking.”
Pilon argued the accused knew the plan was to drive Dong outside the city, but the witness told the court she lied to police and that she had no idea about a plan to drive Dong outside the city.
The Crown questioned why the accused was surprised to learn about Dong’s death. In statements recorded by an undercover officer posing as her cellmate, the accused said she was surprised to hear that Dong bled out. Even after being beaten with a metal pole and a bat, it the stab wounds that killed Dong.
Pilon argued that because the accused stabbed Dong six times, she knew he would bleed, she knew he was out there on his own and she knew there was no way Dong would be able to get help for the damage he took from the accused and another man.
Visibly distraught and red-faced with tear streaming down her face, the accused was shaking on the witness stand as Pilon continued to question her intent. The defense called a quick recess before the line of questioning could continue.
Following the accused’s testimony the defense indicated its portion of the trial was over.
Justice R. Shawn Smith, in discussion with the defense and the Crown, noted the issue around this case revolves around intent.
The Crown said that the kidnapping and forcible confinement of the victim supported the charge of first degree murder.
Smith told the court the issue is whether or not this crime is first degree murder, second degree murder or manslaughter.
He will make that decision after closing arguments, which are set for Feb. 1, 2019.