07/05/2011 06:49 EDT | Updated 09/04/2011 05:12 EDT

Romeo Cormier Trial: Jury Deliberations Begin

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONCTON, N.B. - The fate of a New Brunswick man accused of abducting a stranger outside a Moncton shopping mall and keeping her prisoner in his dark, one-room basement apartment for almost a month is in the hands of a jury.

Romeo Cormier leafed through a paperback novel as the judge overseeing the case spent four hours instructing the five-man, seven-woman jury on the six charges he faces.

The trial pitted the credibility of the accused against that of the woman, who said she was kidnapped at knifepoint on Feb. 26, 2010, outside the Moncton mall where she worked before Cormier tied her wrist to his and forced her to his rooming house.

She testified it was there that Cormier held her against her will for 26 days, sexually assaulting her almost everyday.

"You're my woman now. ... I expect you to take care of me," the 55-year-old woman quoted him as saying.

The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, told the Court of Queen's Bench he cut up her cell phone out of fears it could be traced, and said he had done a lot of bad things in his life.

She said he told her, "You're with the devil."

The woman sobbed at times during her testimony, saying she didn't think she could survive the ordeal. But she said news reports of her family's search for her and her daughter's pregnancy lifted her spirits to the point that she decided she would do whatever she had to in order to stay alive.

She said Cormier only left her alone three times, and each time he tied her up and gagged her.

But she said the final time — on March 24, 2010 — Cormier didn't tie her up as tightly as he had in the past and she wiggled herself free moments after he left to go to a food bank.

A courier truck driver testified he saw Cormier walking quickly down the street moments before the woman ran in front of his truck, frantically waving her arms for him to stop.

He said she was only wearing a T-shirt, underwear and socks. A police officer testified she also had a piece of duct tape with a sock attached on her neck, and Cormier was arrested later that day.

Cormier, 63, took the stand in his defence to provide the jury a different account. He said he met the woman in Newfoundland in 1993 while he worked as a courier, contradicting the woman's testimony that he was a stranger to her until the night of the alleged abduction.

He said he didn't see her again until 2006 in Moncton. He said they kept up a relationship of sorts from there, describing her as an "acquaintance."

During his testimony, Cormier said the woman later wanted to be with him and involved him in a plot to kill her husband.

He said she paid him $1,000 as a down payment and was to pay him $20,000 after the woman was to collect on her husband's life insurance and sell their house.

Cormier said they went to the woman's home on the night of Feb. 26, 2010, with a .22-calibre handgun to shoot the husband, but the plan fell apart when the woman cut her hand and a car entered the driveway.

He said they returned to his apartment where they lived together for 26 days, playing consensual sex games.

Cormier said the woman was free to come and go and that he even showed the woman how to use the gun.

"What stopped her from popping me in the head?'' he said.

Cormier said as the days wore on, he grew nervous about having the woman in his apartment, but never told her what to do.

"She was my boss," Cormier told the court.

The Crown later recalled the woman to the witness stand where she rejected Cormier's testimony. A gun was never found.

Cormier has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault with a weapon, robbery and uttering death threats.

During closing arguments, the defence challenged the woman's credibility, saying she had plenty of opportunities to leave the apartment, raise the attention of other tenants or attack Cormier with knives, scissors or hammers he had in his apartment.

The woman said she wouldn't be able to overpower the man, and feared that a failed attempt could put her life in further jeopardy.