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Woman testifies murder suspect had complete control over women he abused

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WINNIPEG — A woman says she helped hide another woman’s dead body in a barrel filled with chemicals because the man accused in the killing had total control over her after years of abuse.

“He probably could have told me to try and catch the sun and I would have done it,” Holley Sullivan, 30, told jurors Friday at Perez Cleveland’s first-degree murder trial.

Cleveland, 46, has pleaded not guilty in the death of 42-year-old Jennifer Barrett, whose body was found in a barrel behind their Winnipeg home in 2016.

Earlier this week, court heard that Cleveland shared the house with his adult daughter and five women who were described in court by one of them as “sister wives.”

Sullivan started dating Cleveland after they met while working at a call centre in Toronto in 2010. She was 21 and he was 36. She told court she didn’t know he was also in a relationship with another woman until she moved in with them the following year.

“Perez was very charming,” she said.

Yet, she described years of physical violence in the household.

GRAPHIC WARNING: This story contains details that may disturb some readers.

On one occasion, he threatened her with a meat cleaver while she was stripped naked and wrapped in duct tape, Sullivan said. Another time, he tied her to a bed and attempted to sexually assault her with a hot curling iron.

One of Barrett’s family members left the courtroom as other graphic abuse was detailed — the use of crossbows and the staging of a so-called kill room from the television show “Dexter.”

Sullivan said Cleveland’s favourite phrase was: “If you cannot listen, then you must feel.”

He also threatened to hurt her family if she ever tried to leave, she said.

Court heard that the unusual group — which Barrett joined in 2012 — moved to Winnipeg in 2014. Soon after, Sullivan was jailed for a credit card scam that she said she did at Cleveland’s behest.

By her release in 2016, two more women had joined the group, including Jessica Reid, 36, who testified Thursday about similar beatings in the home.

Cleveland’s lawyer has argued that Reid was jealous of Barrett’s relationship with Cleveland and acted violently toward Barrett. Reid is also charged with being an accessory after the fact, but her case has not yet gone to trial.

“Perez had an uncanny knack of making them think the abuse he inflicted on them was their fault,” Sullivan testified.

She told court that in August 2016, Cleveland punished Barrett over several days in the basement of their house because he believed she was cheating on him.

The marks of extreme violence were all over Barrett’s body, said Sullivan, who added she helped the woman shower because she couldn’t lift her arms. “She was literally black and blue from head to toe.”

Cleveland later told her that Barrett had died and asked her and Reid to dispose of the body, Sullivan said, because she had a diploma in forensic biotechnology.

She told court she researched liquid cremations online, and she and Reid placed Barrett’s body in a barrel with a mix of drain cleaner and water. They also heated up the barrel with a blowtorch to speed up decomposition.

Sullivan told the jury she lived with Cleveland for a few months after Barrett’s death, then went to a women’s shelter.

“He said to me that Jen was an accident, but he was going to kill me intentionally and enjoy it,” Sullivan said.

The trail is to continue on Tuesday with her cross examination by the defence.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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Liberals to reject Senate changes to solitary confinement bill

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OTTAWA — The Liberals are poised to reject the Senate’s amendments to a bill that aims to end the practice of solitary confinement.

The government’s response to the Senate’s package of amendments details why the Liberals won’t accept a key change requiring a judge to approve any decision to isolate a prisoner beyond 48 hours.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says in a letter to the Senate that such a change would increase the workload of provincial courts and require the appointment of new judges to compensate.

Sen. Kim Pate, a lifelong advocate for prisoners’ rights, disagrees.

She says the government is spending money on hiring external reviewers for solitary confinement decisions with dollars that could be used to hire more judges, who have greater expertise and independence.

Pate says the law would be unconstitutional if the Liberals pass the bill without the Senate’s amendments.

The Canadian Press


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Chief military judge’s court martial in limbo after deputy recuses himself

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OTTAWA — The court martial for Canada’s chief military judge is in limbo after the judge overseeing the trial, who happens to be deputy to the accused, agreed not to hear the case over conflict-of-interest concerns.

Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil also outlined the reasons why he felt the military’s other three sitting judges would not be able to preside over Col. Mario Dutil’s trial in an impartial manner.

That has left the fate of Dutil’s court martial, seen by some as a critical test for the military-justice system, up in the air.

“I met briefly with the prosecutors and asked them to inform me formally as to what the intent is,” Dutil’s lawyer, Philippe-Luc Boutin, said Tuesday. “So I don’t know. We’re just in limbo and waiting for the prosecution to make a decision.”

Dutil was charged with eight counts in relation to allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and knowingly signed a travel claim for $927.60 that contained false information.

Four of the charges were dropped at the start of the court martial last week, where Boutin served d’Auteuil with a subpoena before challenging the presiding judge’s impartiality and asking him to recuse himself.

A publication ban on details of that portion of the hearing, which included Dutil testifying about his relationship with d’Auteuil, whom he described as a “confidant,” has since been lifted.

In a decision written in French agreeing to Boutin’s request, d’Auteuil said it was reasonable for observers to believe he would be biased because of his relationship to several potential witnesses who are employees of the court.

“It has been shown that a well-informed person who studied the question in depth, in a realistic and practical way, would conclude that because of the existing links between certain court stenographers and myself, I would be biased,” he wrote.

He added that he did not feel he could appoint one of the military’s other three judges to take his place because they either had similar ties to the witnesses or didn’t have the right language skills or expertise for such a complex trial.

Dutil also had an acrimonious relationship with one of the three judges, which d’Auteuil said was another reason not to appoint that judge to preside over the court martial.

“Public confidence in the court-martial system and the function of a military judge could be undermined if I appoint a replacement military judge from among those who are currently eligible,” d’Auteuil concluded.

While military prosecutors could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, they have previously defended the decision to press forward with a court martial rather than through a civilian court.

But Boutin believed it was obvious from the start that the military-justice system would have a difficult time handling the case, and that “this long process could have been avoided.”

Prosecutors could try to get a reserve military judge, Boutin said, or send the file to the civilian system where Crown prosecutors would have to weigh whether it was feasible and in the public interest to move ahead with a trial.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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