News / Toronto

Video in murder trial shows deadly Liberty Village fight

Witness Sascha Harten testified about the fight between her then-boyfriend Shawn Poirier, who is accused of second-degree murder, and Mike Pimentel.

Sascha Harten, left, testified Wednesday at the trial of Shawn Poirier, right, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Court Exhibit / Via Torstar News Service

Sascha Harten, left, testified Wednesday at the trial of Shawn Poirier, right, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Crown witness Sascha Harten testified Wednesday that her ex-boyfriend, Shawn Poirier, told her he thought he had killed a man minutes after fighting with him in Liberty Village on New Year’s Eve six years ago.

“He told me he discarded his hat because it was full of blood,” Harten told a Superior Court jury. Poirier also told her he had thrown away his knife, she said.

She was testifying at Poirier’s second-degree murder trial for the Jan. 1, 2012 killing of Mike Pimentel, who was stabbed to death after leaving a party.

Poirier has pleaded not guilty and is arguing self-defence.

Harten started dating Poirier in Moncton, N.B., after meeting him in a nightclub where she was working as an exotic dancer.

On Dec. 31, 2011, the couple drove to Toronto to celebrate New Year’s Eve. After some shopping, they went to a few downtown-area bars before calling it a night around 2:30 a.m.

Their level of intoxication was about a seven out of 10, Harten said.

Unable to find a taxi — or a washroom — Harten relieved herself behind a large empty flower box near East Liberty St. and Hanna Ave, while Poirier held her purse and used his coat to hide her from view, she testified.

While she crouched, a man across the street began yelling.

“He was angry that I was urinating outside,” she said. “I told him to f--- off.” Poirier chimed in, telling the stranger “to leave us alone, go away,” Harten said.

More words and insults were exchanged. Harten said the man then came toward them — she agreed with defence lawyer Magda Wyszomierska during cross examination that he “charged at you,” grabbed her, and threw her onto the street.

“I thought he was on something . . . a narcotic of some sort, because of his state.”

Pimentel and Poirier then began wrestling and “jabbing” at each other, while Harten “tried to separate them . . . push them apart.” A bystander captured part of the altercation on a cellphone camera, which was shown to the jury. The video was sent anonymously to Toronto police.

Pimentel grabbed Poirier and pulled his coat over his head, while Poirier tried to break free, Harten said. The pair ended on the ground and Harten, still trying to pull them apart, heard the word “knife,” but doesn’t recall who said it, nor did she see one.

She knew, however, that Poirier carried a Buck knife, which has a blade that opens from the handle.

After the fight broke up, the two men “ran” in opposite directions and Harten was left hailing a taxi on her own, she said. That’s when she discovered her hand — which had a gash — and clothes were covered in blood.

“It must have been when I tried to separate them and I did not notice.”

Once in a taxi, Harten called Poirier. That’s when he told her he thought he had killed the other man and ditched his hat and knife. After they picked him up, Poirier seemed “concerned” and “worried,” she testified.

They cleaned up and left town a day early.

During the 16-hour drive back to Moncton, Poirier checked the internet to see if there were any reports of homicides in Toronto. “He could only find minor stab wound incidents, no deaths,” she said.

Harten said she assumed the man survived. She and Poirier broke up by early 2013.

In 2015, someone sent her stills from the video that included her image that police had released on social media. She contacted Toronto police and told them “I’m wanted for a Toronto murder investigation.”

Wyszomierska asked her if it was true that in her first statement to the police she said “this was a self-defence thing.”

Harten agreed.

The trial continues Thursday.

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