Man found guilty in brutal murder of Winnipeg grandmother
Published Thursday, February 18, 2016 8:30AM EST
The family of a 73-year-old grandmother who was sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled to death in 2011 say they are relieved that justice has finally been served.
Thomas Brine, 29, was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Lafantaisie. It took the jury just over two hours to reach their verdict.
Lise Gosselin, one of Lafantaisie's daughters, told reporters outside court Wednesday the verdict was a relief.
“We're so happy that there's been justice for my mother,” she said.
“We were cheated out of so many years without her,” added another daughter, Anna Maynard.
“…It won’t bring her back but at least we can end this and go on with our lives.”
CTV Winnipeg’s Josh Crabb said the atmosphere in the court before the verdict was read out was “extremely tense.” Brine showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but his mother broke into tears.
The trial was an emotional one for the family as they sat in court listening for the first time to the details of Lafantaisie's last moments. In addition to being raped and strangled, their mother had suffered a broken bone in her leg and a broken neck in the attack.
“For five years, we've been wondering what could've happened to her and how,” said Gosselin. “Now, at least we know. We don't know everything; but there is a clearer picture.”
Lafantaisie's body was found in the trunk of her own car in the parking garage of a Winnipeg apartment building. Her coat and purse were found nearby in the parking garage’s stairwell.
Brine admitted to stealing the vehicle but insisted he hadn't killed the senior and was stunned to open the trunk and find the body.
He told detectives he left the woman’s body in the trunk but took the car through a car wash to try to remove any of his fingerprints on the car.
A DNA expert testified during the trial that Brine's semen was found on a vaginal swab taken during the autopsy. The Crown detailed forensic evidence for the jury, saying there was just a one-in-68-trillion per cent chance that the DNA found on Lafantaisie's body belonged to someone other than Brine.
The defence also argued that the officer who was taking notes during the autopsy made labelling errors and asked that the DNA evidence be disregarded. But the Crown argued the evidence against Brine was straightforward and should be allowed.
Brine will be sentenced Thursday. The penalty for first-degree murder is an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Lafantaisie's relatives say they will be at the sentencing to deliver victim-impact statements.
They also said they will try to remember the good times.
“She always had that loving smile,” Maynard told reporters. “I think whoever has their moms today, or their grandmothers, hug them. Embrace them and be with them because you just never know.”
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Josh Crabb