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Fort-Coulonge homicide case moves forward

Fort-Coulonge homicide case moves forward

18 January 2022 à 12:00 am

A Fort-Coulonge homicide case continues to wind its way through the court system, as a preliminary inquiry was held last week. A preliminary inquiry is used in serious cases to determine whether evidence is sufficient to proceed to a trial.

Police were called to a residence on rue Principale the evening of September 2, 2020, where they found 61-year-old Harold Plugowsky, 61, of Fort Coulonge with severe head trauma. He died in hospital the following morning. Johan Mitchell Blake MacLennan, 37 at the time, was arrested and subsequently charged with first-degree murder after a brief court appearance on September 3.

Crown Prosecutor Simon Pelletier explained that defense lawyer Élise Pinsonnault requested a publication ban on the preliminary inquiry, and at this stage the judge must comply with the request.

“When it’s sought by the defense at the preliminary inquiry stage, the judge has no discretion,” he said.

Thus, news outlets are unable to report any of the testimony or details provided at the hearings, which took place from January 10 to 14.

Pelletier did note that they heard from several witnesses and the proceedings took the full five days. The next stage of the trial will be on February 9, when the defense and crown make their submissions to the judge, who will render his decision on the charges going forward.

“The big issue, and that’s really the purpose of a preliminary inquiry, is really what’s going to be the charge for trial. That’s the big thing, that’s the main thing that the judge will have to decide,” Pelletier explained. “If the judge says, ‘I’m ok, or there’s sufficient evidence to go ahead with first degree murder,’ well, that has an implication. If he says ‘Well, it’s manslaughter,’ – which, I would be surprised but we never know – let’s say he says this, then well we’re bound by this decision. We have to respect that.”

Depending on the charge, Pelletier expected that the case would be heard by a Superior Court judge and jury. Submissions will take place on February 9 at 9 a.m. in courtroom 16 at the Gatineau Courthouse.

Crown prosecutors for the case are Pelletier and Stéphane Rolland. The accused is represented by Pinsonnault and Catherine Ranalli.