On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, the Winnipeg Police Service issued a press release regarding a north end arson case that appears to be heading in a decidedly more heinous direction.
On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at approximately 9:45 a.m., EMS workers responded to a working house fire in the 400 block of Aberdeen Ave.
Upon arrival, first responders located a twenty-nine (29) year old woman in the residence and rushed her to hospital.
The woman was listed in critical, life-threatening condition.
Police advised the investigation was being led by members of the WPS Homicide Unit as the fire was believed to have been deliberately set.
Police asked anyone with information to contact Detectives at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.
The story has morphed since the original police press release.
Not long after the story broke, media outlets began breaking the news the woman succumbed to her injuries.
Those injuries seem to have had little to do with the house fire.
Family members indicated the woman had been shot in the back of the head and her home was subsequently set on fire.
They identified the victim as Jeanenne Fontaine (29), a mother of three, who died after she was taken off life support.
Fontaine is the 8th reported victim of homicide in Winnipeg this year.
She is the 4th victim to die as a result of gunfire.
Police Media Release – March 16, 2017
Often times, when the press break a high-profile unconfirmed story, police are compelled to issue a media release to ensure accurate reporting.
On Thursday, March 16, 2017, the Winnipeg Police Service issued a press release confirming the victim’s identity as Jeanenne Chantel Fontaine (29).
Police confirmed she died on March 15, 2017.
Police indicate Fontaine died as a result of being shot and believe the arson was a contributing factor in her death.
(Police did offer the caveat that autopsy results are still pending.)
Police continue to seek public assistance to advance the investigation.
Although its rare, suspects occasionally use arson to conceal a crime or destroy evidence associated with a crime.
Arson can be a powerful tool to meet this objective.
Police crime scene investigators have to be meticulous in the collection of evidence in these difficult and challenging cases.
Although fire can be extremely damaging to biological evidence, crime scene investigators often find highly valuable trace evidence that can be used to secure a murder conviction.
Police have released nothing regarding a potential motive for the killing.
Fontaine has had involvement in a criminal lifestyle that includes the sex-trade and drug subculture.
(It is not known if her involvement in these matters had anything to do with her death.)
In 2015, she was charged with human trafficking in a case involving the exploitation of a 17-year-old girl.
Fontaine denied the allegations.
(She subsequently plead guilty to a lesser charge.)
In an interview with CBC’s Caroline Barghout Fontaine said;
“Like, I’ve never made anybody work for me at all, I could tell you just that I did, you know, but that was me and I did it for me, for myself, for my habits.”
It was clear Fontaine was caught up in the world of addiction and abuse.
The house where the alleged offences took place was described as a virtual den of iniquity.
Fontaine painted the picture;
“You go there its like you just meet all those really messed up people, its like one stupid thing after another, it’s not a good place to live.”
The dangers inherent with the lifestyle are very real.
It comes from those, “Really messed up people.”
People who would kill you for a $10 drug debt, or stab you for your last piece of rock, or snuff your life out because they were blitzed on booze, drugs or pills or a combination of all the above.
Despite the dangers, women lured into the lifestyle find it extraordinarily difficult to find a way out.
The grip of addiction is a powerful one.
The Manitoba Project Devote team, an integrated RCMP and WPS initiative tasked with investigating unsolved murders of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous women, previously released a detailed list of risk factors that correlate to victimization. Those factors included:
- High Risk Lifestyle
- Substance Abuse / Addiction
- Involvement in Sex Trade
- Transient Lifestyle
- Mental Health Issues
They released this information to raise public awareness, to educate and to inform.
At the time of the release, the RCMP were very much concerned with being accused of victim blaming.
Those concerns have proven to be valid as police are often accused of dehumanizing female murder victims by publishing information related to high-risk lifestyle choices.
Unfortunately, the police have to start these conversations.
The motive and factors that contribute to homicide is a relevant public safety issue and concern that has to be openly and honestly discussed.
If not the police, who will be the catalysts for change?
A total of 3 homicides remain unsolved this year – current solvency rate = 62.5%.
In 2016, the 8th homicide was recorded on April 23rd.
The year ended with 25 homicides.
All but 3 cases remain unsolved – solvency rate = 88%.
(In one case, two victims were killed – should this case be solved the solvency rate would jump to 96%.)
Manner of Death
- Shooting – 4
- Stabbing – 2
- Blunt Force Trauma – 1
- Not Released – 1
- Male – 6
- Female – 2