A key Crown witness in the triple-murder trial of a Manitoba man, accused of killing his parents and brother in 2005, faced cross-examination on Thursday by defence lawyers who attacked his credibility.
Jeremie Toupin has told a jury that he and another man, Michel Hince, who is also on trial, were paid $10,000 by Denis Jerome Labossiere to kill Labossiere's parents Fernand, 78, and Rita, 74, as well as his brother Remi, 44.
The bodies of the three Labossiere family members were found in the basement of their farmhouse in St. Leon, Man., about 130 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, after a fire on Nov. 26, 2005. It was later determined that they had been shot.
Labossiere and Hince have pleaded not guilty to three counts each of first-degree murder. Their trial began last week in Winnipeg.
Toupin, 26, was also charged with first-degree murder in connection with the Labossiere deaths. But court heard that he struck a deal with justice officials to testify against Labossiere and Hince, in exchange for guilty pleas on three counts of second-degree murder.
Testifying on Wednesday, Toupin described a murder plot allegedly hatched by Jerome Labossiere to kill his brother, Remi. Court has heard that Labossiere was angry with the way Remi was running the family farm.
Although the plan originally focused on Remi, Toupin said, it later came to include killing the parents.
Toupin also gave details about how he and Hince fatally shot the three Labossiere family members, then burned the farmhouse down.
Witness accused of lying to police
Defence lawyers attacked Toupin's credibility during cross-examination on Thursday, suggesting that he lied to police and the jury.
Hince's lawyer, Evan Roitenberg, began by showing the court a bullet that he said Toupin used to kill Remi Labossiere.
"You are, in fact, a cold-blooded killer?" Roitenberg asked Toupin.
"Yes, I did kill," Toupin responded in a quiet voice.
Roitenberg attacked the deal Toupin signed in return for his testimony, asking him, "You've been given a huge gift here … wouldn't you say it was a great deal worked out on your behalf?"
"Yes," Toupin replied.
Over a period of several hours, the defence pointed out inconsistencies between what Toupin told police and what he said in the witness box, suggesting that Toupin may be covering up the real story.
"See, Mr. Toupin, when you are not telling the truth, it's hard to keep the story straight, isn't it?" Roitenberg said, suggesting that Hince was not even part of the homicide plot at all.
Toupin denied that he was lying.
The trial has adjourned until Monday.