WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg man has been convicted of killing a young woman who overdosed after he gave her morphine pills.
Curtis Haas, 53, returned to court Wednesday to learn he was being found guilty of manslaughter, drug-trafficking and criminal negligence causing Wendy Henry’s death.
His are the first-ever convictions in a so-called “social trafficking” homicide case in Manitoba.
Haas’s unlawful act of trafficking “street morphine” pills to Henry, 20, at his apartment on Oct. 27, 2007, was directly tied to her death in hospital about two days later, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Gerald Chartier ruled.
“Mr. Haas knew the drugs were dangerous,” Chartier said. “His actions contributed substantially to her death.”
His providing Henry with up to 16 morphine tablets was something Haas should have known could kill her, the judge said.
An autopsy found Henry died of an overdose, and she had a startling 1,035 nanograms of morphine per millilitre blood.
Henry and another woman who lived in the same apartment block as Haas both overdosed within 24 hours of each other.
The other woman survived.
Chartier found Haas was aware the other woman went to hospital, and didn’t act to ensure Henry got help as well.
He’d also taken the morphine in the past and found it “worked too much,” so he flushed his supply, Chartier said.
“Mr. Haas’ conduct caused Ms. Henry’s death,” Chartier said.
Haas originally told police Henry wanted the morphine from him to “get high.”
He later changed his story, claiming she needed it to deal with chronic pain. He also told a different version to a security guard in his building, claiming Henry had “gotten into” his stash.
Haas denied any wrongdoing. It was he who called 911 and tried to revive Henry when he discovered she wasn’t breathing. His lawyer argued Henry was responsible for her own demise because she willingly ingested the pills.
“Once a person has that in their hands, they have a choice of what they are going to do with it,” Darren Sawchuk told Chartier in his closing argument in February 2013.
Sawchuk said there was no evidence Haas even knew how much morphine Henry consumed, and she may have snuck some of the pills from his stash without his knowledge.
After the convictions were pronounced, the Crown moved to revoke Haas’ bail and see him taken into custody out of concern he’s now a potential flight risk.
Haas has no criminal record, suffers with health issues and hasn’t breached any of his conditions.
A revocation hearing will be held later this month.
An appeal is widely expected to be launched after Haas learns his sentence later this year. Crown attorney Libby Standil did not disclose Wednesday what punishment prosecutors will seek. She did say the case merits “fairly serious” prison time.
Henry lived with her father and two younger siblings. She filled her days caring for her two-year-old daughter, working with disabled children for the Winnipeg School Division, and taking sign-language classes.
While the unusual case is the first in the province to garner convictions, others remain before the courts.
Donald Bustard, 53, faces manslaughter and drug-trafficking charges in connection with the death of Chantelle Halcro, 25, in July 2012.
Halcro died a drug-related death in her Brandon apartment, police have said.
Police allege she had been injected her with the morphine-derivative painkiller hydromorphone.
Her family said it was not a drug she was known to take.
A source previously said there was no evidence to show Halcro didn’t consent to the injection.
Bustard was arrested in 2013 following Crown consultation on the case.
» Winnipeg Free Press, with files from the Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 8, 2014