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Text messages before fatal Sudbury arson show accused knew victims were home

The Crown rested its case Thursday in the trial of Liam Stinson, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with an arson in 2021 in Sudbury. (Photo from video) The Crown rested its case Thursday in the trial of Liam Stinson, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with an arson in 2021 in Sudbury. (Photo from video)
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The Crown rested its case Thursday in the trial of Liam Stinson, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with an arson in 2021 in Sudbury.

The lead Sudbury police investigator in the case, Det. Const. Marc Belanger, testified about social media and text messages between Stinson and three of the victims leading up to the April 11, 2021, fire.

The conversations between Stinson and victims Jamie-Lynn Rose, David Cheff and Guy 'Popcorn' Henri happened over text messages and social media and were mostly about drug commerce, Belanger said.

Cheff survived the fire, but Rose, Henri and Jasmine Somers died. Two men have admitted to starting the fire using Molotov cocktails, but said Stinson put them up to it, agreeing to pay them in drugs in exchange.

The men also testified that Stinson told them nobody would be home, but the Crown introduced evidence Thursday indicating Stinson knew that wasn’t true.

At the start of the proceedings, the judge asked the Crown to briefly summarize the evidence in the exchange of digital messages found on cellphones and a tablet.

Rose and Henri were living with Cheff at the townhouse that was firebombed. In an April 4 exchange, Stinson asked Cheff if Jamie-Lynn had arrived safely. He and Rose had just ended a 10-month, tumultuous relationship.

Stinson complained to Cheff that Rose had stolen some high-quality drugs -- referred to as “steaks” -- from him and his buddy.

Exchanges between the accused and Rose between April 6 and April 11 showed she was largely trying to get drugs from him.

Rose appeared to not respond to messages Stinson sent to her between the morning of April 10, 2021, and the morning of April 11, 2021, when the fire occurred.

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)

A message retrieved from Stinson's broken LG phone showed a "no message content display," a message that the court heard could mean a phone call made through an app, such as Facebook Messenger.

The timestamp for that entry was after one of the men responsible for the firebombing left Stinson’s place to get gasoline to make the Molotov cocktails.

There were also two "no message content to display" entries from Stinson to Rose at 2:41 a.m. and at 6:48 a.m. on April 11, 2021.

Back-to-back messages sent at 8:49 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. by Stinson to Rose said, "Yo, where you at." The messages were sent after Stinson searched "Sudbury fire" on the internet.

At 10:25 a.m., Stinson texted Rose asking her to come with him "for gifts" for his daughter's birthday the next day.

In cross-examination, Belanger said phone calls made through Facebook Messenger don’t leave a record of how long the call lasted and they don't show up on regular phone records.

Knew they were home

In an exchange of Facebook messages April 10, 2021, Henri asked Stinson if he gave Jamie-Lynn Rose drugs to give to Henri.

Stinson wrote he sent her with a gram of drugs for him and some "down" -- slang for fentanyl -- for Cheff.

"She said 'nothing was sent for me' … ill get bak (sic) to ya in a few," Henri replied.

In response, Stinson called Rose an "idiot" and a "liar."

Stinson indicated she had also stolen drugs from him and one of his friends. The app on Henri's tablet showed Stinson tried to call Henri again at 9:50 p.m. that night.

Another "no message content to display" was sent from Stinson to Henri at 2:42 a.m., around the time one of the men who started the fire went to get gas for the Molotov cocktails.

Later that morning, at 9:48 a.m., Stinson messaged Henri asking him where Jamie was. Henri's tablet was found in his sleeping quarters in the basement of the townhouse that was firebombed.

The Crown rested its case Thursday. The judge will hear some legal matters before the defence begins. 

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