Family members of a three-year-old boy who was stabbed while he slept in his bed hugged and cried outside a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday night after his accused killer was found guilty.
A jury deliberated for about seven hours before convicting Daniel Jensen of first-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend’s son, Hunter Smith-Straight, in 2019.
Jensen, 34, automatically gets a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
As the jury members delivered their unanimous verdict, several members of the child’s family wiped tears from their eyes. One also hugged a Crown prosecutor as they left the court.
The boy’s mother and other relatives declined to comment. A judge is to hear some of their victim impact statements on Friday.
The trial heard that Hunter was stabbed six times in the head and neck.
A relative found him injured in his bed. He was later taken off life support in hospital.
Prosecutors had argued that Jensen attacked Hunter as a way to get back at the boy’s mother after they got into a violent argument.
The defence told the jury that no one witnessed the attack and the killer could have been someone else in the home.
Police testified Jensen was considered a suspect early on in the investigation.
He had been in an on-and-off-again relationship with Clarice Smith for about seven months. At the time of the attack, Jensen was bound by a court order not to have contact with her.
But the trial heard that Jensen and Smith spent the evening of Oct. 29, 2019, together visiting lounges and a casino with Smith’s sister and her partner.
The couple fought violently that night, and witnesses testified that Jensen threatened to have Hunter taken away from Smith.
Prosecutors said Jensen became upset with Smith when she told him she was moving with Hunter to Manigotagan, a community about 190 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Smith told Jensen he was not welcome to come with them.
Video surveillance presented at the trial showed Jensen kneeing and punching Smith before he left a bar in the city’s North End by himself.
Court heard Jensen made the short walk home to an upstairs suite of a duplex where he and Smith lived with Hunter and one of Smith’s nephews. Several members of Smith’s family also lived in the downstairs suite.
Crown prosecutor Jennifer Mann told the jury that Jensen wanted to hurt Smith in the most “cruel and permanent” way possible by taking her only child.
She said he stabbed the sleeping toddler before fleeing the house. The boy’s blood was also found on Jensen’s clothes.
Bruce Bonney, Jensen’s lawyer, argued someone else in the home could have attacked the boy.
He said his client had returned to the house to find Hunter already injured and that’s how the blood got on his clothing.
—Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press