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Murder trial witness describes setting fire that killed three people in Sudbury

Bruce Avenue townhouse following fatal fire. April 11, 2021. (Alana Everson/CTV Northern Ontario) Bruce Avenue townhouse following fatal fire. April 11, 2021. (Alana Everson/CTV Northern Ontario)
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Testifying on Tuesday morning, a witness described how he and another man started a fire using Molotov cocktails in a Sudbury townhouse, believing no one was home at the time.

The April 11, 2021, fire killed three people and injured a fourth in the Bruce Avenue residence.

The witness, who can’t be identified because of a publication ban, testified he was a hardcore fentanyl addict at the time and was in debt to his dealer, Liam Stinson.

Stinson, 27, is on trial for three counts of first-degree murder and one count of recklessly causing damage by fire.

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.

Last week, the jury heard that the witness had gone to the gas station around 2:30 a.m. that night and filled two empty Gatorade bottles with gasoline.

The witness said he had an agreement with Stinson to erase the debt and get more fentanyl if he started the fire in the townhouse.

"He told me I’d be compensated, but there was never an agreement on how much," the man testified.

"I owed him money, plus I wanted more drugs. He told me he would hook me up if I started the fire."

When he returned to Stinson’s place, he said other people grabbed the gasoline bottles and converted them into Molotov cocktails.

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. (File)

He didn’t know why Stinson wanted the place to burn, the witness said, nor did he know where the townhouse was located or who lived there. But he went there with a friend of his who knew the location.

"Empty kitchen," he replied when asked what he saw when he arrived.

"There was no indication that anyone was in the residence at that time ... I lit the gasoline and threw it in the kitchen towards the smoke alarm."

The smoke alarm was in front of the stove, he said. The other Molotov cocktail was also thrown, but only one was lit.

'I was the one who lit it'

"And I was the one who lit it," the witness said.

"Direction from Liam Stinson," he replied when assistant Crown Alanya Jay asked why he did it.

He said texts he sent afterward show that he and the other man were trying to get drugs from Stinson for payment.

"(He) was trying to track down Liam to get drugs," the witness said.

"He was going to see Liam to get the drugs."

Not long after, the witness said he found out people died in the fire and he began deleting messages on his phone so his girlfriend wouldn’t find out.

A few hours later he found out Stinson had been arrested.

"Did you ever speak with Mr. Stinson again?" Jay asked.

"No," the witness said, adding he never received the drugs he was promised as payment.

Angry, remorseful

"Once I found out what happened, that people had died, I cut off contact. I never tried to contact him again,
 the witness testified.

"I was upset. Definitely remorseful. Angry … because it wasn’t intentional. I never wanted anybody to get hurt."

Defence lawyer Joseph Wilkinson asked the witness whether there was a plan with Stinson to kill or hurt anyone. The witness said hurting someone was not part of the plan.

Wilkinson had the witness detail drug transactions he had with Stinson, starting with a $60 purchase early in the morning. The witness said he already owed Stinson $100 from a previous transaction.

The night of the fire, he brought Stinson his flat-screen TV as collateral so he could buy more drugs before he got his employment insurance cheque in a few days.

"Did he give you some drugs in return for that television?" Wilkinson asked. "The TV was collateral?"

"Correct," the witness said.

"I intended to get it back the Tuesday following once I got my (unemployment) cheque."

He used those drugs quickly and was looking for more around 2 a.m. That’s when he agreed to start the fire.

He told Wilkinson he agreed to go get gas and a security video played last week for the jury shows him at the station.

"I was under the influence and shouldn’t have been driving," the witness said.

The trial resumes Tuesday afternoon.

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