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Pat Gregoire's death was murder, jury rules

Ronald Freeman stabbed Gregoire 19 times in bloody Jamestown confrontation
A police forensics van sits on James Street in this July 18, 2014 file photo. Ronald Freeman has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Patrice Gregoire.

Ronald Freeman has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Patrice Gregoire two years ago.

Superior Court Justice Charles Valin sentenced the 48-year-old man to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Freeman was also convicted of assault for an attack on his girlfriend Tanya Pearce, on the same day as the July 17, 2014 fatal encounter he had with Gregoire, 46.

The jurors began their deliberations Monday afternoon after receiving instructions on the law from Valin.

They deliberated until about 9 p.m. that night, then were sequestered in a hotel until they resumed their discussions Tuesday morning.

The jury delivered its guilty verdict about 7:30 p.m.Tuesday after two days of deliberations at the Sault Ste. Marie courthouse.

Freeman and Gregoire — known to many as Pat the Plumber — both were intoxicated when they became embroiled in an altercation on James Street in the city's west end.

Both men were injured in the fight and were taken to the Sault Area Hospital, where Gregoire died a few hours later.

During the trial, the Crown argued that Freeman, who was angry and armed with a steak knife, intended to kill Gregoire, while the defence maintained he acted in self-defence.

"I never slept last night .....I'm very concerned," Ken Walker, one of Freeman's lawyers, said this morning, calling it "a bad day for self-defence in Sault Ste. Marie."

In an interview, he said "it's a terrible thing when somebody second guesses or Monday morning quarterbacks" someone who has been attacked, and protected himself.

This is not just about Ron Freeman, Walker said, suggesting anyone could be put in such a situation where you're damned if you do or damned if you do not.

"It's a horrible decision, to say to preserve my life I took a life and now you want to give me life."

Prosecutor Dana Peterson couldn't be reached for comment today.

During her closing argument to the jurors, she dismissed Freeman's submission that he acted in self-defence.

Freeman stabbed "an unarmed man, a complete stranger 19 times, fractured four ribs, injured his liver and other vital organs," and as a result of these injuries and blood loss, Gregoire died, she said.

Walker said he's sure Freeman will want the decision reviewed and appealed if there is a basis for an appeal.

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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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