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Forensic evidence entered at Paradise home invasion trial

Cable ties in evidence bags at the home invasion trial at provincial court in St. John’s on Wednesday.
Cable ties in evidence bags at the home invasion trial at provincial court in St. John’s on Wednesday. - Glen Whiffen

A home invasion trial taking place in St. John’s Wednesday heard details of some of the forensic work done by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary during its investigation in February 2017.

Sgt. Ron Simms told the court that he was asked to compare cable ties (zip ties) seized at the scene of a home invasion on Milton Road in Paradise to similar cable ties the RNC purchased for comparison at Walmart.

Surveillance video viewed earlier in the trial allegedly shows one of the accused purchasing cable ties at the Walmart on Kelsey Drive in St. John’s sometime prior to the Milton Road incident.

The RNC had also found a receipt for cable ties during the search of a suspect vehicle and compared that receipt to the one the RNC received.

Simms said the cable ties seized at the scene are the same type the RNC purchased for comparison. He also said both receipts were similar with regard to print details, store codes and description of the product.

Witnesses in the case have testified to having their hands secured with cable ties by masked men carrying a gun and knives who had forcibly entered their home.

The trial is being held in provincial court before Judge Mike Madden.

The accused are Abdifatah Mohamed, 28, Tyler Donahue, 24, Gary Hennessey, 33, and Mitchell Nippard, 26.

The four are facing a slew of charges in connection with four home invasions in February 2017, during which victims were reportedly tied up, assaulted and robbed. Nippard is also accused of shooting two dogs during the robberies, killing one.

A fifth man, 28-year-old Mohamed Salim, is also believed to have been involved, but was found dead March 3 in a quarry off the Trans-Canada Highway near Paradise. It is believed he died in the cold while attempting to escape from police.

RNC Const. Cynthia Crocker had photographed the Milton Road house after the home invasion, and an apparent related break-in location on Cameo Drive in Paradise. She later examined a suspect vehicle.

Items she seized as evidence included cable ties, an extension cord and bed sheets that one of the intruders may have inadvertently spat on.

The trial has already heard from witness Michael Crant, his parents, his girlfriend and friends who were at the Crants’ Milton Street home Feb. 8, 2017 when three masked men entered their home and a backyard shed, and tied up victims with cable ties and an extension cord, while demanding money.

Michael Crant was hit in the head, which caused injury and bleeding.

Crocker testified she was on call the evening of Feb. 8, 2017, and was called out first to the Cameo Drive house. A footprint in the snow at Cameo Drive, she noted, was later matched to footwear worn by Michael Crant.

Crant had testified he led the masked men to the Cameo Drive location to get them away from his parents’ home on Milton Road.

Inside the Cameo Street house, there was damage to door frames that indicated forced entry, and drops of blood believed to have been from Michael Crant.

In one room, Crocker said, there were scales, white powder and a bag containing a large block of a chalky white substance. She noted she was not involved in testing the white substance.

Crocker was later asked to go to the Crants’ home on Milton Road and process the scene there.

She photographed and seized a number of cable ties and a white extension cord and a pocketknife, and photographed foot impressions in the snow outside and on the floor inside the home.

Sometime later, she was asked to examine a Honda Civic, where she found bloodstains, mainly from the centre headrest in the back seat. Swabs of the blood were sent to a forensic lab.

The court has adjourned until Tuesday morning.

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