Fort Liard woman who stabbed common-law husband on trial for murder
When Francine Kotchea answered the banging on her door in Fort Liard early on October 28, 2018, she was met with a “shocking” sight she says left her feeling devastated.
Selena Lomen – a woman she had known since she was a child, and who now was her neighbour – was standing in her doorway, covered in blood, saying she had just stabbed her common-law husband, Danny Klondike.
“When I opened the door, Selena was standing there full of blood … on her hands, on her clothes, her pants, her shoes,” Kotchea testified on the first day of a second-degree murder trial in NWT Supreme Court in Yellowknife on Monday.
“To me, she looked normal, she didn’t seem like she was in shock or anything. She told me to phone the health centre [and said] ‘I stabbed Danny.’”
Lomen, 21 at the time, then left, saying she was going to tell Klondike’s mother what happened.
As she called the health centre, Kotchea said her common-law husband, Douglas Bertrand, rushed outside and returned from their neighbour’s house carrying a young baby – Lomen and Klondike’s son. The baby wasn’t injured.
The Crown played a call a frantic Kotchea made to the RCMP at 4:55am, during which the events of that morning could be heard playing out in real time.
“Can you get the detachment down here?” Kotchea pleads with the dispatcher as the baby can be heard crying.
“I need to report a stabbing. Danny Klondike.”
In court, Lomen wiped tears from her eyes as the evidence was presented.
Kotchea avoided looking at her long-time friend as she sat feet away on the witness stand.
Crown must prove intent
Bertrand had gone back to the crime scene after dropping off the baby. Kotchea testified that when he came back again, he said: “Danny passed away.”
Other recordings made to the RCMP dispatcher were played in court, with Kotchea pleading for help to arrive soon.
As the dispatcher explained, the on-call RCMP officers had to get their clothing and equipment on but were on their way, Kotchea grew frustrated with the requests for more information about the location of the injured man and the whereabouts of the suspect.
“Can you just get someone here right away?” she said.
A recording of Bertrand speaking with RCMP was also introduced as evidence on the first day of a scheduled two-week trial.
In that recording, Bertrand describes finding 34-year-old Klondike on the floor, passed away.
Another resident called the RCMP, stating the suspect was with them. The tape was played in court.
“My brother-in law’s common-law came and she said she did something to him … she said she killed him or something,” the voice in the recording states.
Kotchea testified she had lived in her duplex beside Lomen and Klondike for about five months. She saw her daily, and couldn’t recall her ever being intoxicated.
Under questioning by Crown prosecutor Duane Praught, Kotchea recalled a conversation she had with Klondike after he went out drinking on Father’s Day a few months earlier.
“[Selena] didn’t like his being under the influence of alcohol,” said Kotchea.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Peter Harte, Kotchea admitted it was possible Lomen had been drinking the morning she showed up covered in blood.
“If she wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, she wouldn’t have stabbed Danny,” replied Kotchea.
There had been a Halloween party the night before at a residence in Fort Liard – hours before Klondike was stabbed – and the RCMP seized several cell phones from attendees with photos of Klondike, Lomen, and several other people.
While some images entered as evidence will be released, several photo books of the crime scene and Klondike’s autopsy were sealed by court order on Monday.
In an agreed statement of facts to the crime of manslaughter, the Crown and defence admit Lomen did unlawfully cause the death of Klondike by stabbing him in the chest with a knife.
To be convicted of second-degree murder, the Crown must prove the homicide was intentional.
The trial continues.