Story submitted by Winnipeg Free Press crime report James Turner:
A city high school teacher was cleared Sunday of accusations he planned and carried out the cold-blooded murder of a suspected drug trafficker who plunged to a grisly death from his balcony.
The only eye-witness to the crime is examined by the Crown.
An emotionless Wally Brogue, 28, left court Sunday a free man after a provincial court judge found she had serious doubts about the key element of the Crown’s case against him.
Judge Tracey Lord ruled the testimony of an eyewitness wasn’t reliable enough to pin a first-degree murder conviction on Brogue for the July 14, 2013 death of her boyfriend, David Benning. Brogue faced a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison without a chance at parole for at least 25 years if convicted.
Benning died tumbled from his balcony after an argument with Brogue, who admitted he’d been drinking and went to confront Benning at his apartment for framing his younger brother in a drug deal — a move which landed Brogue’s kin in jail.
But, Lord said, it made no sense that Brogue would toss Benning over the four-foot-high railing of the balcony to his death, Lord found.
“Mr. Brogue needed Mr. Benning to be alive to exonerate his brother,” Lord ruled.
Brogue, a teacher and youth counsellor, had no prior history of violence.
Volsky testified Brogue turned up unannounced at the apartment she and Benning shared, roughly pushing past her when she opened the door.
He then angrily confronted Benning, she said.
“‘You creep,'” she recalled Brogue saying. “‘You should pay for what you did to my brother.'”
She said Benning responded by calling Brougue a “fool,” after which came a fatal scuffle, she said. “Wally pushed David over the railing,” Volsky testified.
Lord found Volsky’s level of intoxication (she admitted being “buzzed” from marijuana at the time of Brogue’s visit) left her unable to rely much on what she said.
Volsky had also conceded she was in love with Benning and was prepared to lie in defence of that.
Prosecutor Rishav Kayastha failed to prove Brogue had planned out the killing.
Through the testimony of a serial convict, Kayastha presented to the court comments Brogue allegedly made the day before Benning’s death while visiting his brother, Tom, in jail.
Repeat B&E artist Peter Tomas told Lord he’d overheard Wally say concerning things. “He was angry. I even hear that he want to kill David,'” Tomas said. “‘That creep does not deserve to live,'” he said he overheard Brogue telling Tom.
Tomas’s credibility took a major hit, however, when he told defence lawyer Will Rattray he was testifying in hopes of gaining an advantage at an upcoming parole hearing.
Lord called evidence surrounding any comments Brogue may have made at the jailhouse “ambiguous.”
In an unusual twist in a first-degree murder case, Brogue took the stand and denied any involvement in Benning’s death.
He said after simply asking Benning to come clean with the truth about his brother’s frame-up, Benning rushed at him and tripped himself over the balcony’s railing.
The Crown, Defence, and witnesses pose with the Judge in a bizarre moment of solidarity.
“He just flipped off,” testified Brogue, adding he waited at the scene in utter shock as police were called. “He charged into it and his body weight just flipped him over it,” he said. “People can say what they want,” Brogue told Lord. “I didn’t want Benning dead.”
The case marks the second recent homicide in Winnipeg where a person fell from a building under murky circumstances.
In November, police charged Adam Perrier, 33, with manslaughter and forcible confinement after Christopher Meier fell three floors out of a window at the Royal Albert Arms hotel and died. That case remains before the courts.