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Court hears from LaFrance during murder trial

PHOTO. Fort McMurray Court House 2017. Nathalia Cordeau-Hilliard. Reporter.

Accused testifies over two day period, including events from childhood to the days after the incident.

Spoke about the events of Mar. 17, 2015 and how he'd only brought a knife to threaten the victim.

LaFrance is the last witness to testify and has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder.

Fort McMurray Provincial Court has heard from Nigel LaFrance who testified as a witness in his own first degree murder trial this week.

Defence lawyer, Gregory Lazin opened his case by comparing this portion of the trial to the stories of Paul Harvey, saying this is the rest of the story.

During Lazin’s questioning, the jury learned about the troubled upbringing of LaFrance, who is originally from Ontario, and the several times the family moved, including the move to Fort McMurray in 2007.

They also learned that LaFrance was off to a good start when his family moved to Fort McMurray. He was attending Composite High School working towards a career in power engineering, including a grade 10 internship.

LaFrance spoke of the many times his mother and two sisters would move between Fort McMurray and Ontario between 2007 and 2014, leaving him with his father, creating emotional troubles, as his mother was his support system.

According to the defence, both parents had a role in LaFrance’s substance abuse, introducing him to alcohol at the age of 12 and to cocaine at the age of 17.

As LaFrance got into the details of the events of Mar. 16 and 17 he talked about having a few drinks and consuming cocaine with a friend while working on a vehicle. By the early morning hours of Mar. 17 the accused had purchased a gram of cocaine, which he purchased with money from repairing the truck and the remainder being paid by girlfriend at the time, Michalla Jones. Shortly after 4 a.m. LaFrance arranged for two more grams of cocaine in exchange for Jones’ class ring and a necklace.

Eventually, LaFrance said, he decided to rob Yasinski because he needed money and wanted more cocaine. He got dressed and grabbed the knife from his nightstand, which he said was only to be used as a threat.

During cross-examination on Dec. 5, 2017, Crown Prosecutor Walter Devenz, showed the court LaFrance’s video statement to police from Apr. 7, 2015. The video showed LaFrance telling a different story.

“I just pulled the knife out of my pocket and lunged at him, I wasn’t really, wasn’t aiming for a certain spot.” 

During the trial LaFrance said that there was an altercation as soon as he pulled out the knife, as Yasinski attempted to take it from him, telling LaFrance he was “going to die today”.

Once Yasinski fled from the vehicle, the accused took what he could, including two cell phones from the driver’s seat and $80. LaFrance then fled, throwing the knife on his way.

The afternoon continued with Devenz comparing LaFrance’s statements during the trial to those in video statements to police, asking if consequences of the robbery crossed his mind and why he chose that specific knife to use to threaten the victim.

Letters written by the accused from the Edmonton Remand Centre to both Michalla Jones and best friend Kaven Foley were also brought into question.

In one of three letters written to Foley, LaFrance asked for him to tell Jones to tell the truth and he would give her $5000. LaFrance added in the letter that Foley should not text or phone Jones with the message.

During his testimony on Nov. 29, 2017 Foley said he never told Jones about the letter, saying when he sent her a text message she quickly ended communication telling him that if it couldn’t be said over text message, she didn’t want to know.

Foley added that as LaFrance’s cocaine usage increased, he began to distance himself, but that he didn’t know LaFrance to show aggression, aside from arguing with his father.

LaFrance has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, but guilty to manslaughter.