WINNIPEG — A Crown prosecutor says a man accused of killing a woman whose body was found in a barrel in their backyard used manipulation and fear to control multiple women who lived in the home.
“Mr. Cleveland had a great deal of power over the women in that house and he abused that power,” Breta Passler said Tuesday during closing arguments in the jury trial of Perez Cleveland.
Cleveland, 46, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2016 death of 42-year-old Jennifer Barrett.
Court has heard that Cleveland shared a house in Winnipeg with his adult daughter and five women, who were described by one of them as “sister wives.”
Passler said the women all had unique vulnerabilities and had eerily similar stories about how Cleveland was initially charming before he turned abusive and controlling.
Four testified that they experienced extreme physical abuse, surveillance and manipulation during their relationships with Cleveland.
Passler added that even though police uncovered a relationship document between Barrett and Cleveland, in which she described herself as his submissive, the woman began to fear for her life.
Cleveland became convinced Barrett was cheating, so he tortured her for days before she was killed, the prosecutor said. “(He was) physically and psychologically confining Jennifer Barrett.”
Barrett passed out after the prolonged violence, Passler said, so Cleveland threw water on her and shot her with a Taser. But the woman didn’t respond.
Cleveland put her body in a plastic container in the garage, the prosecutor said, and directed two of the women to dispose of it.
“Mr. Cleveland controlled every aspect of that home that he called his kingdom.”
The defence has argued that one of the other women was jealous of Cleveland and Barrett’s relationship and acted violently towards Barrett.
Passler said there was no evidence the women were violent. Officers did find weapons in the home and Barrett’s blood on a wall in the basement.
Court also heard that because of the body’s decomposition, there was no way to know what caused Barrett’s death. She did have several broken bones.
Passler said the death was not an accident.
“He simply did not care whether she died or not while he assaulted her,” she said of Cleveland.