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Manslaughter trial a Manitoba first

Young mom died of morphine OD

Family members have described her as an "angel" who didn't even like to take a Tylenol to fight off a pesky headache.

A criminal case is underway to determine how -- and why -- Wendy Henry ended up dead following a mysterious morphine overdose.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind in Manitoba. Winnipeg police have said similar arrests and prosecutions could follow if it can be proven a drug dealer's customer died from an illegal product.

Curtis James Haas, 52, is charged with manslaughter and drug trafficking after allegedly giving the fatal dose to Henry after a rock concert. His much-delayed Court of Queen's Bench trial began Monday morning. The trial was originally set for last summer but was adjourned because of medical issues he had at the time.

Henry, 20, collapsed and stopped breathing in October 2007 after taking a number of morphine tablets inside a Dufferin Avenue rooming-house suite Haas owned. She was rushed to hospital but died the following morning.

The trial began Monday with a security guard from her block testifying he saw a frantic Haas giving CPR to Henry after she collapsed. Haas told the guard she had "gotten into" his morphine stash. Haas made similar comments to police in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, court was told.

Police became suspicious after learning another woman in the same block overdosed the previous night but survived. Police ultimately took a full sworn statement from Haas the Crown plans to use against him. However, defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk is challenging the voluntariness of the statement and will seek to have the judge dismiss it.

Henry lived with her father and two younger siblings, filling her days caring for her two-year-old daughter, working with disabled children for the Winnipeg School Division and taking sign-language classes.

On the night of her fatal overdose, Henry and some friends attended an Ozzy Osbourne concert. She then stayed the night with her mother, who lived in the same Manitoba Housing apartment complex as Haas. Somehow, she ended up in his suite.

Neighbours told the Free Press at the time Haas was outgoing, often sitting in his sixth-floor suite with the door open and traffic coming in and out day and night.

"My daughter didn't do drugs," a sombre Glen Henry told the Free Press after her daughter's death. "She wouldn't even take anything for a headache. Morphine is very hard to get, and one of the puzzling things here is where she got it from."

A 1993 Supreme Court ruling upheld a conviction against an Ontario man who injected a young woman with cocaine after an all-night party. The victim, who asked to receive the drug, dropped dead of a heart attack. The Crown was able to prove what is known as "unlawful-act" manslaughter, saying the drug injection was clearly illegal and the dealer should have known it was liable to cause bodily harm.

In 2008, a Saskatchewan woman who overdosed on crystal methamphetamine sued the man who gave her the drug in what is believed to be the first legal victory of its kind in Canada.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Comments are not accepted on this story because they might prejudice a case before the courts.

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