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Courtroom evacuated following Jonathan Massicotte guilty verdict

Jonathan Massicotte, who had just been convicted of second-degree murder in connection to the 2014 death of William Wapoose, had to be physically restrained inside the courtroom.

THUNDER BAY -- A Thunder Bay courtroom was briefly evacuated after man found guilty of second-degree murder had to be restrained on the floor -- with one court officer exclaiming: “clear the courtroom, he is trying to reach for my gun.”

The incident unfolded late Tuesday afternoon following Justice John Fregeau delivering his verdict for Jonathan Massicotte, who stood trial last year on the charge of second-degree murder in connection to the 2014 death of 32-year-old William Wapoose.

Fregeau found the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Massicotte knowingly caused the death of Wapoose and was guilty of second-degree murder.

Massicotte, who was previously released on bail, became angry after his release order was revoked and he had to be restrained by two court officers present inside the courtroom.

The courtroom was cleared after an officer said Massicotte was trying to reach for his gun.

Massicotte could be heard yelling: “I’m not a murderer. I didn’t kill William.”

Several more officers arrived to assist and Massicotte was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Massicotte and a male youth were first arrested and charged with second-degree murder in May 2019 in connection to the death of Wapoose. A jury trial was held for Massicotte on the charge of manslaughter in May 2022, but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict and the Crown sought a retrial.

The trial by judge alone opened in February 2023 and concluded in December 2023 following several adjournments.

The accused youth was found guilty of manslaughter following a trial in January 2023.

The charges date back to 2014 when a cyclist found the body of Wapoose the morning of September 3 in the Chapples Park area.

According to evidence presented at trial, Massicotte, along with the accused youth and another individual were consuming alcohol the night of Sept. 2, 2014, and walked an intoxicated friend home before returning through Chapples Park.

Along a bike path, the three encountered Wapoose, who was intoxicated and sleeping against a lamppost. After leaving him, the youth and Massicotte decided to return to rob Wapoose.

The third individual present testified that he saw Massicotte strike Wapoose on the head with a heavy pole he retrieved earlier from a nearby golf course. The witness testified further that the youth and Massicotte proceeded to punch and kick Wapoose, before dragging him into a ditch and continuing to beat him.

A post-mortem report determined Wapoose suffered numerous blunt and sharp force injuries to the head and neck, including a fractured skull, four fractured ribs, and a deep stab wound to the neck.

The stab wound to the neck severed the carotid artery and jugular vein, resulting in significant blood loss. The forensic pathologist said Wapoose likely would have died from blood loss within 10 to 15 minutes of the wound being inflicted.

Fregeau noted in his decision that there were inconsistencies in the testimony of the witness but said: “I do not accept that [the witness’s] evidence is so unreliable that it should be rejected entirely.”

“[The witness] was not shaken on cross examination when he maintained he saw the accused strike Mr. Wapoose on the head with a pole. Nor was he shaken when he observed the accused and [the youth] punching and kicking him,” Fregeau said.  

“I am not persuaded that the inconsistencies impact the reliability of the material aspects of his evidence.”

The credibility of another witness, who testified to Massicotte admitting he was involved in Wapoose’s death, was questioned by Fregeau, who agreed with the defence submissions that the witness had motivations to fabricate claims based on the past interactions with Massicotte.

But Fregeau was satisfied that the testimony of the witness who was there the night of Sept. 2, 2014 proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Massicotte was present and participated in the attack on Wapoose that ultimately resulted in his death.

Fregeau added that the evidence does not shed light on who inflicted the fatal stab wound on Wapoose.

“It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was either the accused or [the youth] and that it occurred during their assault on Mr. Wapoose that night,” Fregeau said.

“During the vicious assault of Mr. Wapoose in the ditch, either the accused or [the youth] fatally stabbed him in the neck. The two of them then walked away and left Mr. Wapoose to die.”

Citing case law and the notion of co-principal liability wherein joint perpetrators of an assault are all deemed to be liable, Fregeau said it was not necessary to determine who may have used the knife and that Massicotte’s actions exhibited an intent to cause bodily harm of such a nature that it would likely cause death.

“Based on my findings that the accused and [the youth] participated in the beating, kicking, and punching of an incapacitated and badly injured victim, and based on the injuries, I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused subjectively intended to cause the victim bodily harm and knew it would cause his death and was reckless,” Fregeau said.

Fregeau therefore found Massicotte guilty of second-degree murder. A conviction on the charge of second-degree murder carries with it a mandatory life sentence with the period of parole ineligibility ranging between 10 and 25 years.

The case has been remanded to late April to set a date for a sentencing hearing.   

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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