Joshua La Rose, the man accused of killing Matthew Bossenberry in August 2020, was in the witness box Wednesday at Court of King's Bench in Regina.
Previous testimony from Crown witnesses suggested La Rose, 42, had planned to go to a home in Regina's North Central area to confront a man — not Bossenberry — who lived there, due to a past incident. La Rose sprayed bear mace, and a fight between him and Bossenberry ensued, ultimately leading to Bossenberry's death by stabbing, court heard.
La Rose confirmed those allegations Wednesday, testifying that after finishing a stint in jail, he wanted to confront a man at the house who had allegedly threatened his wife, Wuanita. But La Rose denied intending to kill anybody.
"I was being beaten. I just wanted to get out of there," La Rose testified.
La Rose said that on Aug. 24, 2020, the day of the incident, he and his wife were walking toward a house in Regina's North Central neighbourhood.
He said he had a can of bear mace partly for protection because he has been shot in the past, but mainly to spray the man he wanted to confront.
La Rose said he and Juanita got a ride to the house with a friend and that once there he got out of the vehicle by himself.
Other witnesses previously testified that La Rose had knocked on the back window of the house and was eventually let in after lying that he wanted to apologize to a man inside, then, once in the living room, started spraying bear mace.
La Rose confirmed this, but said he only wanted to spray the one man.
After La Rose sprayed the mace, Bossenberry leapt at him, court heard. Bossenberry tried blocking the mace with his left arm, yelled and grabbed he arm La Rose was holding the mace with, La Rose said.
A fight ensued, and Bossenberry was winning, La Rose said. After fighting throughout the house, they ended up in a bedroom with Bossenberry on top of La Rose throwing punches, he said. Bossenberry then picked up a two-by-four and started swinging it, La Rose said, adding that he was hit several times, saw a knockout flash and his ears started ringing.
La Rose said he then saw a knife laying nearby. He grabbed it and thrust upward, stabbing Bossenberry in the ribs on his left side, La Rose said.
"We're done, bro. We're done," La Rose recalled Bossenberry saying after he was stabbed.
La Rose grabbed the bottle of bear mace then fled, he said. Once inside his friend's vehicle, he realized he was still clutching the bloody knife, he said.
His friend dropped he and Wuanita off at a nearby house, where La Rose ditched the knife, he said.
Incident stemmed from drugs
La Rose, born and raised in Regina, grew up with a single mother and four brothers before the family was split up and he was put into foster care, he told court Wednesday.
He eventually became involved in the youth criminal justice system. After a jail stint when he was older, he went back to school to upgrade some of his marks and later earned his General Educational Diploma (GED) and a driver's licence.
He tried various jobs, eventually finding a career as an insulator and later creating his own company, La Rose said.
During that stretch, he had been sober for 15 to 20 years, he said. But then he was plagued with health problems, particularly hepatic encephalopathy — his liver doesn't get rid of the ammonia in his bloodstream properly.
A doctor prescribed him hydromorphone tablets, to be taken four times a day for six months, he said, adding that this doctor later had his licence revoked for prescribing too many meds to his patients.
La Rose said he followed the doctor's instructions, but eventually the tablets stopped helping with the pain. He went to the streets to find more, but they were expensive, he said.
Drug dealers would ask if he had tried fentanyl — an opioid significantly stronger than morphine. La Rose said he hadn't, but eventually he did because it was more accessible and it worked.
This, he said, led to La Rose meeting the man he wanted to confront in the North Central home.
La Rose testified that he was sober on Aug. 24, 2020.
Crown cross-examines La Rose
David Bélanger, one of the Crown lawyers, tried to paint La Rose's visit as calculated and insinuated that, if not for Bossenberry interfering, a different man would be dead.
During cross-examination Wednesday, Bélanger laid out a case that La Rose had planned on going to the home to confront a man and spray bear mace, that it was reasonable for La Rose to have assumed there would be other people around, that La Rose lied to get inside and that he knew there could be weapons in the house.
La Rose denied the Crown lawyer's insinuation that he planned to kill the man. He wanted to fight him, not kill, La Rose said.
The Crown showed La Rose a photo of the alleged knife, which was shown to court last week. He confirmed that was the knife he used to stab Bossenberry, but La Rose denied numerous times that the knife belonged to him.
Bélanger asked if La Rose thought the other people in the living would not fight back after using bear mace — a weapon — in the home.
La Rose testified that he thought people would let him and the man hash it out.
La Rose later testified that he assumes Bossenberry would still be alive had he not interfered.
The jury trial, which is being presided over by Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul, is set to resume Thursday morning with closing statements from the Crown and defence.
The jury will then receive instructions from the judge and deliberate until reaching a verdict.