The Crown Attorney began a Windsor homicide trial Monday afternoon with a description of witness testimony and evidence that's expected to be heard over the next eight weeks.
In the summary, read to all 14 jurors and Justice Renee Pomerance, Crown Attorney Kim Bertholet said the accused, Jitesh Bhogal, came into Canada using the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel at around 2:15 a.m. on June 10, 2018.
Once here, she said Bhogal arranged to get drugs from two individuals, specifically cocaine. At roughly 3:02 a.m. Bhogal was seen on security video withdrawing money from an ATM. Bertholet said the drug dealer requested to be driven back to an apartment building on University Avenue West, near McKay Avenue, which is next door to where the victim, 31-year-old Autumn Taggart lived.
Bertholet said Bhogal arrived in a parking lot where there was a clear view of Taggart's third-floor apartment. The court heard that lines of cocaine were put out on the console of the vehicle and then the drug dealer went inside her apartment building.
Next, the Crown alleges Bhogal broke into Taggart's apartment. Once inside, he allegedly told Taggart's son, who was nine-years-old at the time, to go back to his room and go to bed.
When he woke up, Bertholet said the boy tried to wake his mother, but couldn't. He then contacted his father. When he arrived, the father found Taggart and called police.
The jury heard that an autopsy determined the cause of death to be strangulation and neck compressions. There were also injuries related to a sexual assault.
At roughly 7:15 a.m. on the morning of June 10, 2018, the Crown said Bhogal crossed back into the U.S. using the tunnel. Bhogal is a Canadian citizen but was living in Michigan at the time. He was arrested in Washington state in August of 2018. Bhogal waived extradition and was returned to Canada.
The Crown plans to call 30 witnesses, including experts, members of the community and police officers.
This marks the first jury trial in Windsor since COVID-19 started roughly 20 months ago.
The trial is spread across four courtrooms to abide by public health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the main courtroom of the homicide trial, jurors will sit in cushy office chairs, physically distanced, at the back where members of the public typically sit. The accused, Bhogal, will be in a plexiglass box the jury normally occupies.
Another courtroom will be used solely for jury deliberations, while the remaining two will be for the public to watch on television screens that stream live from the main courtroom. Others can also request access to a virtual link to watch the proceedings as they happen.
The family isn't permitted in the courtroom where the justice, jury and accused sit. They must watch on a big screen television in an overflow courtroom.