Jason John Ouimet sits in the back seat of an unmarked police car as he is whisked away from the Brandon courthouse on Monday morning after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 2010 killing of Duane Lacquette. Ouimet was driven to and from the courthouse in the unmarked car and taken into the courthouse via a sally port garage. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Friends and family members of Duane Lacquette embrace outside the Brandon courthouse on Monday morning after Shilo-based soldier Jason John Ouimet pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2010 death of Lacquette. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
A CFB Shilo soldier has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing a man who he claimed was trying to "rape" him.
Jason John Ouimet entered his plea during a brief appearance in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday in answer to the killing of Duane Lacquette.
The plea is based on a joint recommendation reached by Crown attorney Jim Ross and Ouimet’s lawyers, Roberta Campbell and Sarah Innes.
It takes into account Ouimet’s explanation about what happened, as he reportedly described it to his friend shortly after the killing.
"The Crown accepted a plea to manslaughter based on provocation," Ross said following court yesterday. "Mr. Ouimet’s account is entirely consistent with all of the evidence in the case."
Outside the courthouse, Lacquette’s uncle Eugene Lacquette said the family was "disappointed," in part because Ouimet hadn’t been convicted of murder but the lesser charge of manslaughter instead.
"It’s disappointing, but what can you do?" he said. "We’ve put our trust in the judicial system … it’s in the hands of the judge now."
Lacquette, 21, was found dead in the basement of his home on the 3600-block of Centennial Boulevard on Jan. 16, 2010.
Ouimet, a soldier posted at CFB Shilo, was arrested on Feb. 4, 2010, and initially charged with second-degree murder.
With no previous criminal record, he was released on bail five days later and the 30-year-old has continued to live and work at CFB Shilo.
A CFB Shilo spokesperson said a review of Ouimet’s employment with the Canadian Forces is underway and could result in his dismissal.
He was originally scheduled to begin his jury trial on Monday when he pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and guilty to manslaughter instead.
Justice John Menzies has set sentencing for June 7 and Ouimet remains out on bail as he awaits that date.
Ouimet had been quietly whisked into the courthouse through a back door and entered the courtroom via a route usually used by accused who are in custody.
Dressed in a dark suit, he answered questions put to him by the judge and lawyers with a clear "Yes" and "Yes, your honour" as he confirmed his plea.
That done, he left the room by the route he’d entered by and minutes later an unmarked police car emerged from a secure courthouse garage and rushed Ouimet away.
About a dozen of Lacquette’s family and friends, including his mother and father, had sat quietly in the courtroom as Ouimet entered his plea.
No facts were read in court and lawyers didn’t reveal the sentence they will seek.
However, during a preliminary hearing in April 2011, friends testified that Lacquette was gay.
His sexual orientation may have been a factor in the events that lead to his death.
During the preliminary hearing, Ouimet’s friend and fellow soldier testified that, shortly after the killing, Ouimet told him what had happened.
The soldier testified that Ouimet claimed that he’d fallen asleep at a party at Lacquette’s home and awoke to find Lacquette trying to "rape" him. Ouimet choked Lacquette during an ensuing fight and fled after he realized Lacquette was dead.
Ouimet said he didn’t mean to kill Lacquette and had reacted instinctively and acted in self-defence, the soldier told court.
However, that account hasn’t been tested at trial. It remains to be seen how much of it defence lawyers will rely on during sentencing.
Ouimet, who is from Kingston, Ont., had only arrived at CFB Shilo about nine days before the killing.
Lacquette’s friends and family were devastated by the popular young man’s death.
They described him as a caring, fun-loving man who liked to dance.
Lacquette grew up in Mallard, a small Manitoba community about 120 kilometres north of Dauphin.
His uncle said Lacquette would send money home to help his deaf father.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 1, 2012