Time needed to upgrade charges in Hunter Straight Smith's death, say Winnipeg police

Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver explains why it can take time for police to upgrade charges if a victim dies after assault or attempted murder charges are laid.

Days after Hunter Straight Smith was taken off life-support many are wondering why charges against the man accused in the toddler’s death haven’t been upgraded from attempted murder.

While police say those charges are likely to be upgraded soon, the process takes more time than people often realize.

“While the public has the luxury of being able to say ‘well that seems obvious’ … investigators, we don’t have that luxury,” explained Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver.

Bianca Smith, aunt of Hunter Straight-Smith, holds a photo of the three-year-old who was allegedly stabbed by his mother's ex-boyfriend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Bianca Smith, aunt of Hunter Straight-Smith, holds a photo of the three-year-old who was allegedly stabbed by his mother's ex-boyfriend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

“I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that we expect new charges to be laid …. (but) if people expect us to do this in a way that results in a conviction, we need to do it perfectly.”

Straight Smith died Saturday after family made the painful decision to take the toddler off of life-support following tests that showed the three-year-old had severe brain damage.

The toddler had been in hospital in grave condition since he was stabbed in the neck early Wednesday morning while he slept in his Pritchard Avenue home.


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Daniel Jensen, 33, was charged Wednesday with aggravated assault and attempted murder. He’s also charged with an earlier assault on the young child’s mother.

Carver said Jensen’s charges will likely be upgraded in the coming days, but that process can’t start until an autopsy is completed.

That autopsy had yet to be done as of Monday afternoon, but one is scheduled, said Carter.

However, getting the results is just the beginning of the process for police, said Carver.

Dan Jensen

Dan Jensen

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Once the autopsy is complete investigators will need to write reports before consulting with the crown attorneys before any changes to charges can be made.

“An autopsy might take hours, the follow-up work might take days,” said Carver.

While police understand the pressure from the community and victims of crime to get new charges laid quickly, Carver said it’s vital investigators take their time to make sure those charges stick.


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“We have to do it in a way that will stand up in court, and that’s what we’re going to do here,” he said.

“We need to be right, and if that were to take another two weeks, we’re going to be right.”

When Straight Smith was taken off life-support he became the city’s seventh homicide victim in just 11 days, adding to the pressure investigators face in a year that’s so far seen 39 homicides.

People drum at a vigil for Hunter Haze Straight-Smith, the three-year-old who was allegedly stabbed by his mother's boyfriend and taken off life support Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

People drum at a vigil for Hunter Haze Straight-Smith, the three-year-old who was allegedly stabbed by his mother's boyfriend and taken off life support Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Carver said the workload is taking a toll on investigators.

“We still have investigators investigating homicides that aren’t solved from a few months ago.. there’s a multiplier effect for sure,” he said.

“I can see it in everybody’s faces and its wearing us down a little.”

–With files from Brittany Greenslade

 

 

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