I’ve often heard people say that you can’t put a value on the price of a human life.
Not so in the City of Winnipeg it seems.
Depending on what part of the City you live in the going rate can be as low as ten ($10) bucks.
That was the reality regarding a senseless North End killing that occurred on Friday, August 27th, 2010.
The call came in to 911 at 1:55 am.
I was notified by the Duty Office just after 2:00 am, woken from a deep slumber after only a couple of hours of sleep.
It’s the worst kind of call a Homicide Supervisor can get, knowing that you are going to be working for a minimum of twenty-four (24) hours after virtually no sleep.
Sleep deprivation was a very difficult part of the job, you never really got used to it, you just accept it and learn how to function in spite of it.
Once I arrived at the Public Safety Building I would debrief a dozen or more Uniform Patrol Officers and would learn that the murder victim was identified as Derek Robert Spence, a twenty-four year old North End resident who had suffered a single stab wound to his chest.
Murder Victim Derek Robert Spence
Unfortunately for Derek, it was a “money shot.”
The knife lacerated the left ventricle of his heart causing a catastrophic, fatal injury.
Within half an hour of the incident Spence would be pronounced deceased.
Now it was my job to run an investigation designed to learn the identity of the killer so that “justice” might be served.
As the Homicide Detectives started to roll in, I had a good working knowledge of what had transpired based on the information gleaned from debriefing the uniform officers.
As fate would have it, the case would turn out to be another typical senseless Winnipeg killing.
After getting ripped off of ten ($10) dollars in a street confrontation, the victim rallied the assistance of several of his friends who he led to a residence on Manitoba Ave in his ill-fated quest to recover his money.
During the confrontation that followed, Spence came face to face with his killer, Leonard Leslie Murdock, a twenty-three (23) street thug who had been around the block a time or two.
Leonard Leslie Murdock – Convicted Killer
Witnesses reported that when the combatants squared off, Spence was surprised to see that Murdock had brandished a “shank”.
“What are you going to do, stab me for $10” Spence asked Murdock.
The answer came in the form of a quick forward plunging motion.
“Oh fuck, he stabbed me, I’m hurt” were the last words that would ever come out of the victim’s mouth.
Just over twenty-four hours (24) hours later, the hard work of the investigators paid off. Leonard Murdock was identified as the killer and was subsequently charged & detained at the Provincial Remand Center.
He would eventually be tried on charges of second degree murder.
As I recall, it was around twenty-seven and a half (27 1/2) hours after the original call came in that I retired from duty and headed home for some much-needed sleep.
Almost two and a half years later, the case finally made its way through our the Courts.
Murdock was recently sentenced after a jury convicted him of Manslaughter rejecting his claim that he stabbed Spence while acting in self-defense.
The Crown requested a sentence of eight (8) years in prison while the defence argued for a much lighter five (5) year shot.
To support her position, the Crown advised the Court that Murdock had no defense relative to impaired judgement as he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the killing.
The defense defaulted to the usual sentencing sob story advising the Court that Murdock had a troubled childhood that saw him spend a number of years in foster care before moving to Winnipeg at age eighteen (18).
Once he hit the streets of the City he turned to a lifestyle entrenched in the gang, drugs and crime subculture.
His lawyer told the Court “He hits the big City and it all goes very badly. It’s highly unfortunate but not that unusual a pattern.”
Justice Diana Cameron, a former Crown Prosecutor, credited Murdock with time served and sentenced him to a further four and a half (4 1/2) year period of incarceration.
When you do the math, the sentence on paper equates to approximately seven (7) years.
A sentence that will be significantly undermined by the Parole Board.
So there you have it, a “ten dollar ($10) killing” that will ultimately merit a sentence that will be the equivalent of a “nickel” or approximately five (5) years in prison.
Is it any wonder that Winnipeg continues to be the violent crime and murder capital of Canada.
We are a desensitized culture living in an environment where people can be killed for ten bucks and do less than five years in prison for it. Life in Winnipeg is cheap, true accountability is rare and “Justice” is a word that no longer has any meaning.
So where is the outrage?
Is the entire population of the City of Winnipeg suffering from PTSD?
Are we all completely numb to the violence and the reality of living with a broken Justice system?
Has the silent majority been reduced to a group of Winnipeg Sun poll voters who recently clicked the mouse to provide stats that indicate that 83% of us think that a seven (7) year prison sentence for this crime is inadequate?
Winnipeg Sun Poll
It makes me wonder how far the pendulum can swing before we witness a correction.
It makes me wonder how much longer we can afford to let the silent majority remain silent.
It makes me wonder what it’s going to take to get the silent majority to wake up and take a more participatory approach to get the pendulum to swing back.
Winnipeg crime reporter James Turner recently asked the question “Are our Courts in tune with society’s reality?”
Although I thought the answer was obvious, I analyzed a recent case that should convince even the most ardent Justice supporter that the Justice system is broken and in desperate need of repair.
I have little doubt that the silent majority agrees.
In fact, I’m so confident I’d bet anyone ten ($10) bucks!