NEWS
02/22/2018 09:12 EST | Updated 02/22/2018 09:21 EST

Missing, murdered inquiry commissioners comment on Tina Fontaine murder case

WINNIPEG — Commissioners from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women are encouraging people to support the family of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine while jurors decide whether the man accused of killing her is guilty.

"Nothing is more heartbreaking than the loss of a loved one and tragically this is not an isolated case," said the statement released by Marion Buller, who is leading the inquiry, and commissioners Michele Audette, Quajaq Robinson and Bryan Eyolfson.

"The violent end of this beautiful young Anicinabe woman's life is a tragedy that hurts us all," it said.

"Tina's death woke up the nation to the issues of violence and marginalization Indigenous women and girls are subjected to."

Jurors resumed deliberations Thursday morning at the trial of Raymond Cormier, who is accused of killing Tina and dumping her body in Winnipeg's Red River.

Cormier, 56, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Tina's body — wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks — was found eight days after she was reported missing in August 2014.

Her death reignited calls for the national inquiry, that is now holding cross-country hearings led by Buller.

Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal spent three hours Wednesday instructing the jury on key issues in the case and how to come to a decision.

He explained that there are only two questions that the jurors need answer.

"Unless you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt the Crown has proved that Tina Fontaine's death was caused by an unlawful act, and that the accused Raymond Cormier committed the unlawful act, you must find Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder. Your deliberations will be over," Joyal said.

"If you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt Raymond Cormier committed the unlawful act that caused the death of Tina Fontaine, you must find Raymond Cormier guilty of second-degree murder as charged."

The jury has heard that Tina was raised by her great-aunt on the Sagkeeng First Nation, 120 kilometres north of Winnipeg, but went to the city to visit her mother. It was there that the girl became an exploited youth.

Court was told there were no witnesses to Tina's death and no DNA linking her to the accused. Experts testified they don't know how she died.

Crown prosecutors said the teen was killed and dumped in the river by Cormier, who had sex with her and later found out she was a minor.

Joyal urged the jurors to listen to each other while discussing the case.

"The jury's decision is a group decision. Everyone has a say and an equal say. Your duty is to consult with each other. The verdict must be based on the facts as you find them," he said.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter