A Winnipeg man arrested after an Osborne Village shopkeeper died in what police say was an intentionally set fire told a court in 2018 he would end up dead "or in jail for a long period of time" if he didn’t turn his life around.
Sixty-year-old Jung Ja Shin died Aug. 15 after she was pulled from a fire at the E-Mart convenience store at 157 Scott St., where she lived in a second-storey apartment with her son.
Douglas Wayne Last, 50, has been charged with manslaughter, three counts of arson-disregard for human life and two counts of failing to comply with a release order. He remains in custody.
Court records show Last has multiple convictions for breaking and entering and property offences related to an ongoing struggle with methamphetamine.
In June 2019, Last was sentenced to 10 months in jail after he was arrested breaking into a Garry Street apartment parkade. Last’s arrest came just three weeks after he was released from custody for another break and enter.
At the time of his arrest, Last was homeless, using meth and lacking any support in the community, defence lawyer Mackenzie Cheater told provincial court Judge Sidney Lerner at a sentencing hearing.
“I think I’m in the right place now in my mind, in my body and my spirit. I am done with this life.” — Arson suspect, Douglas Wayne Last, 50
"When he is able to maintain sobriety he is not in trouble, he is not someone who is before the court," Cheater said. "Any kind of erratic or unusual behaviour is entirely attributed to the fact he is under the influence."
Last participated in drug counselling while in pre-sentence custody and told court he was ready to make a change.
"I think I’m in the right place now in my mind, in my body and my spirit," he said. "I am done with this life."
Lerner said he believed Last’s intentions were good, "but the trick is sustaining that and applying it once you hit the fresh air, so to speak."
Last delivered the same message to another judge, using many of the same words, when he was sentenced a year earlier for attempting to break into a bank machine.
"I’m tired of this lifestyle and of being in jail," he told provincial court Judge Kusham Sharma. "I just want a chance to redeem myself."
Last said if he didn’t change, "I’ll either be dead or in jail for a long period of time, and I don’t want to do either of these."
Four days after the fire, dozens of mourners turned out for a vigil honouring Shin outside her charred and boarded-up convenience store.
"She was so, so, so nice," Megan Ross, a frequent customer and nearby resident told the Free Press. "I have never met anyone in customer service like her. She went above and beyond for every customer that walked in."
Police believe Last also started a fire at 151 Scott St. and attempted to start two more at 137 Scott St. and 369 Stradbrook Ave. that same evening.
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.