A sex offender accused of violently assaulting two halfway house workers at gunpoint pleaded not guilty at the start of his jury trial on Tuesday, despite confessing to police.
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“As part of the trial, Jean-Pierre Bellemare wrote a letter of apology to the victims,” explained Me Patrick Lafrenière of the Crown, during his opening statement this morning in a Montreal court.
Moments earlier, however, Bellemare, 56, twice reiterated his plea of ”not guilty” to each of the armed sexual assault charges he faces in connection with the events in July 2018.
That day, two employees of a halfway house were in offices in the basement of the building, whose job it was to help inmates reintegrate into society after leaving prison. At one point, however, they heard a knock on the door, Mee Lafreniere said.
The two women then heard footsteps and suddenly, a masked and armed man entered their compound.
“The individual would close the door, and he would sexually assault each of the complainants,” Crown said. As if that wasn’t brutal enough, he would stare one victim in the eye and force him to pepper spray him, then do the same to a second victim.
Bellimere then took to his feet, according to the prosecution’s theory presented to the jury.
However, investigators used science to track down Bellemare, who allegedly committed sexual assaults “speaking in English and with an Italian accent,” with the intention of covering his tracks.
Following biological analyses, the suspect’s DNA was able to identify Bellemar.
A witness had to explain to the court that Bellemare was known to have stayed there in the past at the halfway house, indicating that he had already been in prison.
Met by the Sûreté du Québec, Bellemare admitted everything. However, he pleaded not guilty this morning, so both victims will have to detail their ordeal before a full panel of jurors.
Bellemare is defending himself, but a lawyer has been appointed to cross-examine the complainants.
The trial, presided over by Judge Daniel Royer, is scheduled to last for a month.
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