Crown counters defence arguments at Wentworth trial

Michael Wentworth, shackled, is led from Kingston’s Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Court Street on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

On Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, the final day of submissions in the Michael Wentworth trial before Justice Laurie Lacelle, Crown counsel Fraser Kelly took an hour to dissect the defence’s key points, picking them carefully apart one by one.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, Kelly had appeared before Justice Laurie Lacelle to summarize the Crown’s case against Michael Wentworth, who is charged with the murder of Richard Kimball, the murder of Stephen St. Denis, the manslaughter of Henrietta Knight, arson in the form of a car bombing, and robbery of a Toronto-Dominion (TD) bank. All the offences are alleged to have occurred between June 1995 and October 2001.

On Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, Wentworth’s defence team, under the leadership of counsel John Kaldas, had portrayed the 69-year-old accused as a “colourful” and even “funny storyteller.” Kaldas asserted that Wentworth spent his days gleaning the details of each of the five crimes of which he stands accused from the “long-term criminals” he associated with and from local media. He then, Kaldas claimed, wove tall tales together from those sources to impress the undercover police operatives to whom he confessed, or to protect himself from harm.

Not so, declared Kelly on Thursday, reminding the court that Kaldas had named Michael Tecchi, the accused’s brother-in-law, “the only reliable witness” called by the Crown. Tecchi had nicknamed Wentworth “Ripley” because, according to the defence, when he told stories one could never be sure whether to “Believe it or Not.” However, Kelly pointed out that Tecchi, when forming his opinion, did not have the benefit of the “fruits of an entire fulsome investigation” by police over nine months like the one that now stands before Justice Lacelle.

Kaldas had referred to many of the Crown’s corroborated facts as “mundane details” that did not point to his client’s guilt. Kelly countered that mundane details can, in fact, prove Wentworth had knowledge that only the man who committed the crime could know. For example, Wentworth had described the robbery of the TD bank multiple times, and those seemingly insignificant details never changed. Two bags of night deposits had been stolen from a trolley pushed by an employee of the bank, and Wentworth knew that because he was there.

Photos of the alleged victims of Michael Wentworth (AKA Michael Verney) displayed at a joint OPP and Kingston Police press conference on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

Further, the person who bombed a vehicle in Toronto in 2000 had followed the adult target to the zoo and watched as the target and his children attended it. Kaldas pointed out that Wentworth had only mentioned one child being with the target, when in fact there were two children at the zoo that day. Kelly countered no: what Wentworth told the undercover officer was that “this guy had a kid in a stroller there,” but that did not preclude the presence of another child not in a stroller. 

On Wednesday, Kaldas had also said, “Anyone who knew [the target] knew he liked to take his children to the zoo.” Kelly countered, “So, how did the accused know it?” since Wentworth was not close or friendly with the man.

Further, Wentworth told the undercover officer that when the bomb went off, “the guy and his wife” and kids came out of the home to see what had exploded. While Kaldas had pointed out that the man’s wife had been confirmed as being out of the country on that day, Kelly countered, “It is simple: he saw an adult woman and assumed it was the wife, when in fact it was the children’s adult female nanny,” who was confirmed to have been in the home at the time.

Perhaps most telling was Kelly’s assertion, “The accused gave details we didn’t know.”  Before Wentworth told the undercover officer about the bombing, “the bombing was off the radar. The investigators knew nothing about it.”

Kelly continued to poke holes in Kaldas’s portrayal of Wentworth, using the details provided in each of the crimes he is charged with.

The trial lasted 27 days, beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Justice Lacelle will now take until January 19, 2023, to examine the submissions before making her decision. She stated it may take two days to enter that decision into the record.

Michael Wentworth (AKA Michael Verney) being taken into court on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

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