THUNDER BAY - Two months after the body of 32-year-old William Wapoose was found in the Chapples Park area on Sept. 3, 2014, Jonathan Massicotte was interviewed by investigators with the Thunder Bay Police Service as a person of interest and asked about his involvement in Wapoose’s death.
“One of the stories we’ve heard from people is someone claiming responsibility - you,” said then Det. Const. Shawn Whipple of the criminal investigation branch during the interview conducted on Nov. 4, 2014. “Is there a reason why you would be claiming this? Did you ever claim responsibility for this event?”
“No,” Massicotte replied.
“Did you kill William?” Whipple asked.
“No,” Massicotte said.
Whipple was one of two lead investigators in the Wapoose homicide called to testify by the Crown on day four of the second-degree murder trial against Massicotte for his alleged role in Wapoose’s death.
Wapoose’s body was found near a bike path along the south end of Chapples Park Drive on Sept. 3, 2014. A post-mortem examination revealed he suffered numerous injuries, including stab wounds on the back, blunt force trauma to the head and face, and a stab wound to the neck that resulted in serious blood loss and eventual death.
During the interview with Whipple, Massicotte said he and three other individuals were drinking at his residence on Sept. 2, 2014 and walked to the Northwood area to help one of the individuals who was extremely intoxicated get home.
Earlier testimony by one of the other individuals present, who was a youth at the time, said the group walked through the Friendship Gardens to Northwood and went through Chapples Park on the way back. It was then they came upon Wapoose and the witness testified to Massicotte and a second accused beating Wapoose.
The second accused, who was a youth at the time of the offence, will stand trial on the charge of second-degree murder in October 2022.
Massicotte told Whipple that they did not return through Chapples Park because it wasn’t safe.
“We’ve gotten jumped there before,” he said. “Many times we’ve gotten jumped there. At night it’s not safe.”
“It was kind of scary to hear about that,” Massicotte added referring to Wapoose’s death in the park. “We were so close it could have been us. That’s kind of scary to think about.”
When asked about Wapoose’s death, Massicotte said he heard about it through news reports and from people on the street and he believed it to be gang-related.
“I heard it was gangsters actually,” he said. “That’s the word on the street.”
When confronted with the information that police had received statements that claimed Massicotte took responsibility, he said the only person he could think that would make such claims was one individual because “I stole his girlfriend,” he said. “I don’t know why else.”
Whipple testified that Massicotte was interviewed because his name was brought up early in the investigation as someone who was talking about the homicide.
“I managed to receive some witness statements that gave me the grounds that Mr. Massicotte was responsible and arrest him for this incident,” Whipple said.
During cross-examination by defense counsel George Joseph, Whipple was asked about the investigative steps undertaken by police, including wiretaps and police agents seeking to obtain information.
“Do you agree with me that neither of these avenues produced any information involving Mr. Massicotte?” Joseph asked.
“They didn’t involve Mr. Massicotte,” Whipple said.
In the November 2014 interview, Massicotte was asked if he would be willing to provide a DNA sample, to which he agreed, but police did not obtain one at that time.
However, Massicotte was placed under brief surveillance to obtain a ‘drop-off’ DNA sample from a discarded cigarette butt, though the seized butt turned out not to belong to Massicotte.
Joseph questioned Whipple why police attempted to obtain a drop-off DNA sample when Massicotte had already given consent to provide one.
Whipple said he could not answer that question because then-Det. Shawn Harrison was the case manager at that time.
Harrison also testified on behalf of the Crown on Thursday and during cross-examination, said police did not take up Massicotte on his offer to provide a DNA sample because at the time of the 2014 interview “our investigation was pointing in a different direction from Mr. Massicotte.”
It wasn’t until the preliminary hearing in 2020 that police obtained a DNA sample from Massicotte, which did not match any of the 13 distinct DNA profiles created from the scene at Chapples Park.
According to Harrison, the investigation into Wapoose’s death was unusual in that it was isolated and not much information was available.
“We knew that Will had some interaction with someone in the Limbrick area the week before, that he had been assaulted,” Harrison said. “We followed in that direction. We tried to locate them and spoke with them.”
Whipple added during cross-examination that a total of four persons of interest were identified throughout the investigation but he could not recall if any others had been asked if they killed Wapoose.
Joseph then put to Whipple that the only reason he arrested Massicotte was because of statements given by the two other individuals who were present the night of Sept. 2, 2014.
“The statements they gave me matched everything we knew at the scene,” Whipple said. “Everything was supported by the statements that they gave and they were the only ones who gave statements.”
But Joseph said the testimony in court of the one individual on Wednesday stating he witnessed Massicotte hit Wapoose with a pole in the back of the head did not match what was known, given the post-mortem examination showed Wapoose was hit just above the forehead.
Whipple was then questioned about a note he made in February 2018 prior to meeting with the Crown’s office to "look for approval to forego charges against [the other two individuals] for testimony against Jonathan and [the second accused.]"
“You did that because if they had been charged you would have no statements you could use against Jonathan Massicotte, is that right?” Joseph asked.
“What I was going for was advice in regards to information I had received from [one individual’s] sister that he may have been forced into being involved, so as to proceed properly in obtaining the statements, I wanted to make sure I did things properly,” Whipple said.
During a brief re-examination by Crown attorney Trevor Jukes, Whipple was asked if after February 2018 he had any grounds to charge the other two individuals, to which he said he did not.