In the third day of the manslaughter trial for a teenage girl accused of killing a Brockville man, one of her friends told the court that they saw the accused push 33-year-old Damian Sobieraj into the St. Lawrence River, where he was found dead the next day.
Sobieraj was killed while walking his dog at Hardy Park on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, just minutes after he called police to report a disturbance in the park.
After over a month and a half investigating the mysterious death, and several reports of a group of youths terrorizing the city, Brockville police charged a then-14-year-old girl with manslaughter in relation to Sobieraj’s death.
The trial for the now 15-year-old girl began on Monday, but on Wednesday, the court heard from a youth who claims he was there when Sobieraj was allegedly killed.
The Crown witness, who cannot be named in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, said the now 15-year-old accused, who also cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and a group of students left school on Sept. 13 and went to Hardy Park to drink coolers.
The witness says he drank two to three cans, and the accused teen was also drinking. The witness testified remembering the group became annoyed because the accused continued to drink.
The witness then told the court the group went to 241 Pizza on King Street West before going back to the park to watch a member of the group and another Brockville youth fight.
Crown counsel Alan Findlay says surveillance footage from 241 Pizza confirmed the group left the restaurant around 9:30 p.m.
The witness told the court the fight didn’t happen, so a few members of the group began breaking branches off a tree and repeatedly hit the tree’s trunk.
According to the witness, Sobieraj approached the group yelling at them to stop what they were doing.
Sobieraj then, according to witness, reached to take a branch out of one of the group member’s hands. He allegedly ripped one of the group members’ shirt while tussling for the branch, and was pushed in the chest by a group member, according to the witness.
After the altercation, the witness says he left the area where Sobieraj and the accused were, but stayed in the park near the marina. From afar, the witness says he saw the accused push Sobieraj into the water and recalled “hearing a splash, people running and screaming.”
“She just came in and pushed him,” the witness told the court.
The witness says he then went to the edge of the water and saw Sobieraj sinking face-down in the water, but he didn’t believe he was drowning.
“When I saw him he looked like he was faking it,” the witness told the court. By this time, the witness says the accused was behind him crying.
Despite telling the court he heard Sobieraj screaming for help three times before he got to the water’s edge, when the Crown asked him if he thought about helping Sobieraj as he drowned, the witness simply said “no.”
After this response, people in the courtroom broke out in tears.
The trial for the 15-year-old accused continues on Thursday.