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
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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