Skip to main content

Men who started Sudbury fire that killed three people testify at murder trial

Share

A murder trial in Sudbury will continue Tuesday with testimony of one of the men who admitted to starting the fire that killed three people.

Liam Stinson, 27, is on trial for three counts of first-degree murder and one count of recklessly causing damage by fire in an April 11, 2021, arson that killed three people in a Bruce Avenue townhouse.

Jamie-Lynn Lori-Lee Rose, Jasmine Marie-Clair Somers and Guy (Popcorn) Armand Henri were killed during the early morning blaze. David Cheff, who lived there, survived by jumping out a window.

The Crown alleges Stinson arranged for the firebombing in which his estranged girlfriend, Jamie-Lynn Rose, was one of the victims.

Testifying on April 3, a witness who can’t be identified because of a publication ban said he went to Stinson’s house that night after paying him $50 for fentanyl.

He arrived around 11:30 p.m. and stayed around five hours. There were 10-15 people there, most of whom he didn’t know, and they were drinking and doing cocaine and fentanyl.

The witness said he took coke and fentanyl himself.

“I was high,” he testified. “I was feeling, I guess, euphoric.”

He testified that another man arrived around 2:30 a.m. carrying two Gatorade bottles filled with gasoline.

Sudbury fire crews at housing complex on Bruce Avenue formerly known as Ryan Heights following a deadly blaze. April 11, 2021. (Alana Everson/CTV Northern Ontario)

The witness, a daily fentanyl user at the time of the fatal arson, testified that he had known the other man since they were both in Grade 5. He lost contact with him over the years and was struck by how much of an addict he had become when they reconnected.

“He used to be very caring and loving,” the man testified.

“He shut off. It’s like he wasn’t there ... Drugs had taken such a hold of him -- that’s all he cared about.”

The witness said that his childhood friend owed Stinson a drug debt and he learned that his friend was going to attack a nearby townhouse with Molotov cocktails to repay the debt.

“They smelled like gas,” the witness said, when Crown prosecutor Kaely Whillans asked how he knew the bottles were filled with gasoline.

“It was understood he was asked to light something on fire … At the time I thought it was somebody’s shed (or a garage).”

He learned later that the target of the attack was Cheff, the only survivor of the firebombing. Once he found out the plan, the witness said he wanted to be sure no one was home.

“I didn’t want my childhood friend to go set a fire to a house with people in it,” he testified.

“My own moral compass,” he responded, when Whillans asked why he wanted to make sure no one would be home.

Stinson reassured him no one would be there and showed him a text that the witness believed was from Jamie-Lynn Rose, saying that they had arrived safely in Timmins and would be returning Monday.

Bruce Avenue townhouse following fatal fire. April 11, 2021. (Alana Everson/CTV Northern Ontario)

“(Stinson) told me that the residents in the house had gone together to Timmins,” the witness testified.

The plan was for the firebombing to take place at 4 a.m., but the witness said his friend didn’t know where Cheff lived, so he took him there.

“I knew where it was and was leaving,” the witness said.

The jury was then shown a surveillance video showing the outside of the townhouse that was firebombed. Two figures can be seen approaching the front door and then leaving.

A few minutes later, fire is visible and smoke gradually fills the screen as the fire spreads in the townhouse.

On Friday, the man’s friend took the stand and testified that he was heavily involved in drugs at the time. He said he met Stinson about 10 days before the fatal fire.

His name also can’t be published because of a publication ban.

“I didn’t really know him,” the witness said of Stinson.

The witness said he usually paid cash when he bought drugs, spending between $1,500 and $2,500 a month on fentanyl and cocaine.

'It was a living hell, really'

“I worked 50 hours a week to feed my habit,” he said.

In April 2021, he testified that his addiction “was as bad as it had ever been” and had forced him to go on unemployment insurance.

“I couldn’t function without it,” he said.

“I couldn’t get out of bed … It was a living hell, really.”

He was unable to work at the time and was relying on unemployment insurance totalling $2,000 a month. That caused a cash crunch when it came to his drug habit, so he was borrowing from family, friends and drug dealers.

“I would just pay for (the drugs) when I did get my cheque,” the man testified Friday.

On April 10, 2021, he said he brought Stinson his flat-screen TV as insurance he would pay his drug debt. He went to Stinson’s “to get some drugs,” he testified.

“I had just given him my TV because I had no money,” the witness said.

He was at Stinson’s a few hours later – it was now early in the morning of April 11 -- and said he saw Stinson smoke crack cocaine.

“Stinson was intoxicated, different from what I was,” the witness said.

“He was more agitated from the crack cocaine ... Agitation, paranoia. I don’t know how to explain it. Aggression ... He seemed pretty pissed off the time ... He was ranting and raving about the residents in question at Dave Cheff’s.”

“At one point, he asked me to go buy some gas,” the witness said.

He agreed, although he doesn’t remember if he agreed to do the firebombing before or after he got the gasoline.

“I wanted more drugs and I didn’t have money,” the witness said.

“I figured if I got the gas, he would give me more drugs. It was an assumption on my part.”

The jury watched a video in which the witness can be seen pulling into a gas station, taking two empty Gatorade bottles from the back of an SUV and filling them with gas. He then pays for the gas and drives away.

“At this point in time, do you have any plans?” asked assistant Crown prosecutor Alanya Jay.

“I’m not sure if I had any further plans yet at that time,” the witness responded.

He returned to Stinson’s place, where someone cut the tops of the gasoline-filled bottles and someone else stuffed ripped T-shirts inside the tops.

“I think I had already agreed by then to light the fire,” the man said.

“I was definitely intoxicated ... I just remember him telling me to go start the fire ... I believe he used those words. He said he wanted to send a message, go start a fire at Dave Cheff’s residence.”

The trial resumes Tuesday morning. 

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

U.K. prime minister calls national election for July 4

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a national election on Wednesday, naming July 4 as the date for a vote his governing Conservatives are widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.

Stay Connected