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Second manslaughter conviction for killer who can’t control himself


A killer who once said he owed it to a woman he choked to death to try to get help for his impulse-control issues has been sentenced to 12 more years in jail after committing another homicide.

Christopher Baldwin was sentenced in September after pleading guilty to manslaughter for beating his girlfriend’s former lover with a Pyrex bowl and leaving him to die on Akwesasne Island in November 2014.

Despite a 2005 conviction for the same offence after killing Diana Keeney on Percy Street in Ottawa, being deemed at high-risk for reoffending, and concerns voiced by his first victim’s family that he wouldn’t spend enough time behind bars, Baldwin was released back into the community at the end of his six-year sentence.

His victims would share similarities: a history of altercations with the man, vulnerabilities due to capacity or addiction, and both were left for the dead after Baldwin, in his own words, “could not stop himself.”

In case, Baldwin, then 31, and his girlfriend, Rachel Fenn, then 39, were both charged with second-degree murder of Fenn’s former lover, David Benson Hopps, 61. Both pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Fenn and Hopps had been together on and off for a decade, but in the months before Hopps’s death, Fenn started dating Baldwin.


Diana Keeney was choked to death by Christopher Baldwin.

Baldwin admitted to police that he and Fenn had gone to the Akwesasne First Nation to pick up her dogs from Hopps. They went with a case of beer in-hand as a way to get into Hopps’s home.

Baldwin told police that the two men argued and that when Hopps went after Fenn and then after him, he struck Hopps on the head with the bowl. The pair said Hopps was still alive when they left him.

“It is one thing to assault a vulnerable old man and to hit him over the head with a Pyrex bowl, it is another thing altogether to not seek assistance and to let him bleed to death” wrote Superior Court Justice Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal in her sentencing decision. Baldwin, she said, knew his actions would harm Hopps.

Hopps was a 61-year-old Indigenous man who lived in what the court called a “dilapidated house” with no electricity on the Akwesasne Mohawk First Nations Territory. An alcoholic, he was drunk at the time he was killed.


David Benson Hopps was bludgeoned with a heavy Pyrex bowl.

“Baldwin contributed to this vulnerability, by buying the beer and feeding the addiction,” in order to get into the home, the judge said.

It’s the second time Baldwin has admitted killing someone and after the first time, an Ottawa judge warned that Baldwin’s lack of impulse control and weak understanding of social interactions might land him back before the court for other offences.

“I’m not saying he’s going to kill someone again,” Ontario Court Justice Peter Griffiths said in 2005 when sentencing Baldwin. At the time, Griffiths found that Baldwin lacked the capacity to understand his actions were life-threatening.

Baldwin choked Diana Keeney, 34, to death after a dispute between the two in her Percy Street apartment in October 2004. Keeney, who welcomed homeless people into her bachelor apartment, had invited Baldwin and two others to stay. In the weeks leading to her death, Baldwin and Keeney began arguing often, and in the early morning of Oct. 26 it turned violent.

A roommate went to the kitchen and found Keeney on the floor, while Baldwin was crying, walking away.

Baldwin called 911 shortly before 4 a.m. and reported Keeney’s death. He had strangled her from behind with his forearm and punched her while she was on the ground.

Keeney, like Hopps, was also vulnerable and had a developmental disability.

Baldwin’s lawyer at the time, arguing for less jail time, worried that he could end up in a “warehouse” of a federal system that would provide little opportunity for rehabilitation.

“You need to think about how you’re going to live the rest of your life,” Griffiths said, telling Baldwin to take advantage of rehabilitation programs. “You owe it to Diana, right?”

“Yes I do, your honour,” Baldwin replied.

On the day his sentencing hearing for Hopps’s killing was to be held, Baldwin told the court that he might be Indigenous. A subsequent Gladue report confirmed that Baldwin is a non-status Indian from the Ojibwa community.

The report writers said that Baldwin, now aware of his ancestry, “finds the cultural teachings to be very healing.”

Baldwin told them that “with the smudging, it gets rid of all the negative energy and feelings that I have.”

Lafrance-Cardinal, in her ruling, found that “he was robbed of being raised in his native culture, of embracing his native traditions and traditional ways.”

A psychiatric assessment also found that Baldwin’s alcoholic father was physically abusive.

Baldwin himself started drinking at the age of 14 and was drinking heavily on a daily basis by 18. He takes an antidepressant daily, is on antipsychotic medication, and meets the established criteria for PTSD, ADHD, alcohol use disorder and anti-social personality disorder.

Rebecca White, Hopps’s sister, asked the court how many more times Baldwin would be given his freedom only to destroy more lives. Her family, she said, was given a life sentence. White asked the court to ban Baldwin from Akwesasne territory so that her family can walk their homeland without having to look over their shoulders.

Lafrance-Cardinal found Baldwin’s substance abuse and anger management remains largely unaddressed. But if allowed to embrace Aboriginal healing paths, he may “battle those demons” and that there is “rehabilitative hope,” the judge wrote.

“He is still very much in need of treatment for his alcohol addiction and his impulse control problems. He will continue to be a threat to society unless he gets the necessary help.”

With credit for time served, Baldwin will serve just more than seven years in prison.

syogaretnam@postmedia.com

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