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Murder trial hears accused met with Tina Fontaine after she was reported missing

Raymond Cormier is seen in this photo taken of evidence provided by the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench in Winnipeg on Friday, February 2, 2018. Raymond Cormier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the August 2014 death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old Indigenous girl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert

Raymond Cormier is seen in this photo taken of evidence provided by the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench in Winnipeg on Friday, February 2, 2018. Raymond Cormier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the August 2014 death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old Indigenous girl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert

WINNIPEG — Jurors were told shortly before 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was found in the Red River wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down by rocks, her accused killer told an acquaintance he had recently met with the girl.

Ernie DeWolfe was the first witness at the 11-day trial to suggest Raymond Cormier, 55, might have been with Tina after she was reported missing in Winnipeg and shortly before her death.

Cormier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. The trial has already heard from witnesses who say they saw Cormier arguing with Tina the night of Aug. 6, 2014 on a street outside a mutual friend's home.

Tina had recently travelled to Winnipeg to try to reconnect with her mother and became a sexually exploited youth who ran away from shelters and hotels where she was housed by Manitoba Child and Family Services.

Tina's boyfriend and others have testified Tina met Cormier a handful of times that summer and he would supply her with drugs and consume them along with her and other people. 

Cormier told police in a videotaped interview Tina walked away from the argument on Aug. 6, threatening to call the police because Cormier had sold her bicycle, and he never saw her again. She was last seen two days after that, leaving a hotel to go to a shopping centre, and was reported missing Aug. 9.

DeWolfe testified he talked to Cormier on Aug. 15 and Cormier said he had met with Tina the previous day to ensure she was not going to call the police.

"I just asked him what happened with her, you know," DeWolfe told court. "He just said that he had talked to her and he straightened it all out and took care of it."

When asked what he took that to mean, DeWolfe replied, "I just presumed that he talked to her and ... sorted it out."

Tina's body was found in the river on Aug. 17.

DeWolfe also said Cormier told him in an earlier conversation that he had sex with Tina, contradicting what Cormier told police. The testimony prompted Thelma Favel, Tina's great-aunt who raised her for most of her life on the Sagkeeng First Nation, to leave the courtroom.

Under cross-examination, Cormier's lawyer accused DeWolfe of fabricating the conversations with Cormier. The two men met each other in prison, stayed for a time at the same halfway house, and got into an argument over money, DeWolfe said.

Defence lawyer Andrew Synyshyn suggested DeWolfe was also angry at Cormier because he believed Cormier had told parole officers DeWolfe was doing drugs again.

"I put it to you that you didn't have that conversation with Mr. Cormier," Synyshyn told DeWolfe. "You saw an opportunity to get back at Mr. Cormier and you took it."

DeWolfe denied the accusation.

"It's what I know and it's what I told (police)."

DeWolfe also told police he saw Cormier with the same style of duvet cover that Tina's body was found in.

Two other witnesses have given similar testimony. The duvet cover was a limited-edition design sold only by Costco Canada, which has three stores in Winnipeg.

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