An Eliiot Lake man has been acquitted of seven charges, including attempted murder, stemming from a bloody 2019 home invasion where two people suffered severe injuries.
The attack occurred in the town of Spanish, where a man was "viciously" assaulted with a bat and a woman received a skull fracture in the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2019.
Shaun Phillip Wilson, 35, was found not guilty of the charges earlier this month, following a trial that occurred over nine days in February of this year, eight in August and one in September.
It was a hybrid trial where some witnesses testified remotely and others gave their evidence in the courtroom.
In addition to the attempted murder charge, Wilson had faced two counts of aggravated assault, and single counts of break and enter to commit an indictable offence, robbery, committing an indictabled offence while masked and threatening.
In a 16-page decision released Oct. 13, Superior Court Justice Edward Gareau said the issue before the court was identity, and whether Wilson was with Jason Gamble, a co-accused who earlier pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the break and enter and assaults.
"The real issue is whether there is evidence to place the accused" in the Front Street unit where the pair was attacked to satisfy the court beyond a reasonable doubt, Wilson was the assailant, along with Gamble, who was in the home that morning.
Gareau noted that while there was forensic evidence linking Gamble to the crime scene, "there is absolutely no forensic evidence" __ no blood, no footprint impressions and no hair __ that connects Wilson to the scene.
"Simply put," the judge said, even though the unit's bedroom "was a bloody crime scene with blood everywhere and items strewn about the residence," there is no forensic evidence linking Wilson to what occurred there.
When police searched the Elliot Lake residences of the two accused men no physical or forensic evidence was located in Wilson's home connecting him to the Front Street address.
"This is the polar opposite" to Gamble, who was connected to the crime, the judge said.
Gamble was convicted of aggravated assault when he appeared in court and received a penitentiary sentence in the seven-year range.
Marvin Edward (Teddy) Seymour, then 49, and Dawn Martel, then 32, were attacked by two masked assailants, who allegedly stole a safe, cash, a watch and drugs.
Seymour received a significant closed head injury, spine fractures, a collapsed lung, injury to his diaphragm, and rib fractures.
He was comatose when he arrived at Sudbury Regional Hospital, where a neurosurgeon described him as "severely neurologically injured."
Martel suffered a depressed skull fracture with bleeding around the brain, swelling and injuries to the side of her head and face, and a swollen eye.
She underwent surgery to remove pressure on her brain and bone fragments in her skull.
During the trial, the court heard from numerous witnesses called by prosecutors Trent Wilson and Stuart Woods.
Defence lawyer Eric McCooeye opted not to call a defence.
The judge found the evidence of many of these witnessess unhelpful, defying common sense, difficult to accept, filled with frailities or unreliable.
One woman candidly told the court she was drunk from alcohol and high on drugs every day at the time of the incident.
"My whole time in Spanish is a blur, really," she testified.
Gareau also described most of the evidence given by one of the victims as "troubling and not worthy of belief."
Martel "lied to the court and, I believe, purposely misled the court," he said.
The woman had "misrepresented her relationship" with Gamble, which was revealed to the court by another witness and texts Martel had sent to her.
Gareau described Martel's evidence that the smaller of the two assailants was the one who beat Seymour as protective of Gamble.
Her evidence was that the bigger guy (Gamble) was rummaging around looking for a safe and the smaller assailant was in Seymour's bedroom laying a beating on him.
"The court has to wonder if this evidence is not distorted or slanted to protect Mr. Gamble with whom she professes to be engaged and in a relationship with despite the contrary evidence that she gave under oath to the court."
The judge said he accepted her evidence that two masked men entered the unit that morning and inflicted a beating on her and Seymour.
"Otherwise, I accept none of her evidence and place no weight on it."
Gareau said the issue of an alternate suspect also blooms large in this case.
Evidence disclosed that days before the incident a male was seen swinging a baseball bat near Seymour's residence and threatening to kill him.
After police were called to the Jan. 25 attack scene, he was charged, along with a woman, with offences related to the assault.
These charges were subsequently withdrawn.
An Ontario Provincial Police officer testified at Wilson's trial that all evidence, at that time, pointed to this person, who had a history with Seymour, had blood on him and injuries to his hand when he was arrested.
Swabs were taken of his hands, but were not submitted to the Centre of Forensic Sciences to be analyzed.
Evidence disclosed that the male knew Seymour had cash in his residence and about a month before the incident had spoken to Gamble about possibly robbing him.
Police attempted to find and bring him to court to testify at the trial but he could not be located.
"Suffice it to say that there is a viable, real, and reasonable possibility" that this individual was "the other, smaller and more slightly built individual" who was with Gamble on Jan. 25, Gareau said,
The judge noted that during closing arguments on Sept. 29, the Crown had acknowledged that an intent to kill was not established by the facts.
The prosecution also admitted the case against Wilson was circumstantial.
In his conclusions, Gareau said the evidence points the finger of guilt to the other individual, who had the motive and opportunity to commit the attack on Seymour, as much as it does to Wilson.
Combined with the lack of forensic evidence connecting Wilson in any way to the crime scene and "the very poor quality and frailties with the evidence of the Crown's main witnesses on the issue of identity, lead this court to the inescapable conclusion" that the Crown hasn't proven the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Gareau said the Crown had raised suspicions, which only can be explained by reasonable inferences from the trial evidence.
Where there is a plausible and reasonable alternate suspect, "it is dangerous for the court to convict in a circumstantial case," he concluded.