WINNIPEG — Police have upgraded a charge in the death of a three-year-old boy to second-degree murder.
Daniel Jensen, 33, had been charged with attempted murder after the sleeping boy was stabbed multiple times in a Winnipeg home last week.
Hunter Haze Straight-Smith suffered severe brain damage and died on Saturday after his family decided to take him off life support.
Hunter’s aunt, Roxanne Smith, said Thursday she’s disappointed that Jensen was not charged with first-degree murder.
“My nephew was an innocent happy little boy at home sleeping,” she said in an online message. “Probably waited for his mom to come home he would tell his mom: mom, love me up.”
Smith said family members are trying to focus on their grief. They are arranging for a wake in Winnipeg on the weekend and a funeral on the Hollow Water First Nation’s reserve on Monday.
However, she said, they won’t be able to find peace until the court case is concluded.
Hunter’s mother, Clarice Smith, had been in an on-again-off-again relationship with Jensen, but he was not the boy’s father. Police have said that at the time of the alleged attack, Jensen was under a court order not to contact the mother.
Investigators believe there was an argument between Smith and Jensen at a location on Winnipeg’s Main Street on Oct. 30. Police allege that after the dispute, Jensen walked to the home where Hunter was asleep and stabbed him several times.
Family has said the injuries were brutal.
Jensen was also charged with assault for the altercation police allege occurred between him and Hunter’s mother and with failure to comply with recognizance and probation orders.
The boy’s death shook the city. There were multiple vigils in the boy’s honour and a memorial continues to grow outside the home where Hunter was attacked.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has called for an urgent face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Brian Pallister to discuss the rise in homicides, including Hunter’s killing. There have been 11 homicides in Winnipeg in the last 30 days.
With two months still to go, the city is just one homicide away from the highest number recorded in one year. In 2011, 41 people were killed when a gang rivalry was linked to a spike in killings.
Pallister is to meet with Trudeau in Ottawa on Friday and has said the recent violence will be on the agenda.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2019.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press