Jury deliberating in first-degree murder trial
NICOLE O’REILLY Nicole O’Reilly is a Hamilton-based reporter covering crime and justice for The Spectator. Reach her via email: email@example.com
The fate of accused killer Dylon Duarte is in the hands of a jury. He is accused of fatally stabbing Tyquan Brown, a 23-yearold construction worker, around 12:20 a.m. on May 31, 2019. The six-man, six-woman jury began deliberations around 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Duarte said he didn’t stab Brown, but admitted to being the man who approached a group outside 180 Sherman Ave. N. that night. He agreed it is “possible” the 12-inch bayonet he carried “accidentally” struck Brown during a fight. He told the court that he went there out of concern for his onand-off girlfriend Hope Vankoughnett, who he said was drunk and risked missing a meeting the next morning over access to their son. At the time, Duarte was prohibited from contacting both Vankoughnett and their son, and was also prohibited from possessing weapons because of a past conviction for assaulting Vankoughnett with a Taser. With the help of friends and one of Vankoughnett’s sisters, he found her on Sherman. Duarte said he approached her calmly to talk but was threatened by a guy in the group with a knife. He claimed Brown struck him with an extendable baton and the two struggled, before he ran back to his friend’s car. But Crown attorney Jill McKenzie, who concluded the prosecution’s closing arguments Wednesday morning, called on the jury to completely reject Duarte’s evidence. It was contradicted by every witness. This includes no one seeing anyone else with a weapon and no extendable baton being found at the scene. “There really are just two versions of events,” she said — Duarte’s and everyone else’s. McKenzie said Duarte was hunting for Vankoughnett that night because she told him he couldn’t live with her. Over hours, he messaged her about 100 times, ranging from loving to threatening suicide if she didn’t come back to him. At 4:01 p.m. he texted her: “Like I’m going to hurt people you don’t know like just some random person I want my family back.” McKenzie said Duarte put that plan into action when he saw Vankoughnett having fun with friends on Sherman just before 12:20 a.m. She suggested he covered his face, pulled his bayonet from its sheath and ran up yelling and swinging the large knife. In the chaos of the scene, the friends didn’t realized Brown was hurt. A blood trail beginning at a fence ended in a nearby alleyway. He died from massive blood loss from a 4.5-inch-deep stab wound to the chest. After fleeing, Duarte ended up at his aunt’s house, where she testified he told her he killed someone. His aunt said he told her that, when he arrived, he saw Vankoughnett “acting like a hoe,” so he ran up and stabbed “the biggest guy there.” It was to punish Vankoughnett, McKenzie said. His aunt, Shawntel Woods, told the court that Duarte was rapping about murder and also threatening to stab people until he was arrested. Another witness, a friend of Duarte’s, also testified about him confessing. Duarte denied these conversations. The alleged murder weapon, which the Crown asserts was stolen from a friend and Duarte said he was gifted, was never found. In addition to closing arguments, the jury was also given instructions by Superior Court Justice Andrew Goodman before beginning deliberations. The jury can return verdicts of not guilty, guilty of first-degree murder or guilty of the lesser included offences of second-degree murder or manslaughter.