Three-year-old Hunter Smith-Straight was found clinging to life with a knife still lodged in his neck, the victim of an enraged killer bent on hurting his girlfriend "in the cruelest and most permanent way — by taking the life of her only child," a jury heard Monday.
Daniel Jensen, 34, is on trial charged with first-degree murder for the Oct. 30, 2019 killing at the boy's Pritchard Avenue home.
"At its core, this is a case about domestic violence," Crown attorney Courtney St. Croix said in an opening address to jurors. "We expect the evidence will show that… whatever affection Dan Jensen may have had for Hunter Smith-Straight was overwhelmed by his drive to hurt his mother."
St. Croix told jurors they will hear evidence Jensen and Hunter’s mother, Clarice Smith, had been out with another couple that night and the two "were not getting along." While at the Northern Hotel bar, Jensen and Smith got into a "physical altercation" that was broken up by another bar customer, at which point Jensen left the hotel on his own.
Jensen, St. Croix alleged, then walked to Smith’s home where, after providing an explanation for his presence to one of the boy’s cousins, he walked upstairs to Hunter’s bedroom and stabbed the sleeping boy six times in the head and neck before fleeing the house.
"This was not an accident, this was not an impulsive act, this was deliberate," St. Croix said. "This was something Daniel Jensen thought out, and something he planned as he walked from the Northern Hotel bar to… Pritchard Avenue — all because he was mad at Hunter’s mom."
Hunter was rushed to Health Sciences Centre suffering severe blood loss and brain damage. Three days later he was taken off life-support and died.
According to an agreed statement of facts provided to jurors, Jensen was bound by a court order at the time to have no contact with Hunter’s mother and to stay 200 metres away from her home.
A 911 call placed by one of Hunter’s cousins shortly after he was discovered in his bedroom captured a scene of chaos and devastation.
"A little boy was stabbed," a distraught and sobbing caller told a dispatcher as others in the house screamed and cried in the background.
"Can you see him right now?" the dispatcher asked the caller.
"No, I don’t want to go back up there… Oh my God," the caller said.
Const. Derrick Klassen, one of the first police officers to arrive at the house, testified he found Hunter on a bed, a pool of blood under his head, and a steak knife protruding from the boy’s neck.
"When I first saw him, I immediately believed he was deceased," Klassen said. "His eyes were open and he didn’t appear to be breathing."
Klassen and other officers tried to resuscitate the boy until paramedics arrived minutes later and rushed him to hospital.
While no one saw Jensen stab Hunter, by trial’s end there should be no doubt who killed him, St. Croix alleged.
"When you consider the evidence in its totality, through the lens of common sense and experience, the only reasonable conclusion is that Daniel Jensen stabbed Hunter... and those actions caused his death and that he meant to kill him," St. Croix said.
The trial is set for one month.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.