P.E.I. assault trial told boy feared poisoning at religious commune

Charlottetown Guardian/September 20, 2002

Charlottetown -- Fear that his brother had been intentionally killed using rat poison kept a young boy from turning on the woman who controlled the P.E.I. religious commune where they lived, he told court Friday.

The boy, now age 14, is one of five alleged victims of Lucille Poulin, who is on trial facing five counts of assault. The case has been underway for one week before Supreme Court Justice David Jenkins, who heard from two children Friday. The first child to testify was the eldest of the five and his cross-examination continued to its conclusion Friday.

He said his late brother was, at the time, the oldest child living at the commune, known as Four Winds near Fredericton, P.E.I. The older brother had reached the age where he was beginning to challenge Poulin during her beatings of the nine children, testified the boy.

On Dec. 21, 1999, the oldest boy died in hospital and all the Crown witnesses have told the court that from that point onwards the beatings by Poulin on the remaining eight children became more frequent, random and sometimes uncontrolled.

With the death, the next-eldest boy now found himself in the role of challenging Poulin. He recalled a time when Poulin grabbed his sister by the ears and pushed her up against the wall and "started pounding her and slapping her."

"I said 'if you do that one more time, I'll be having a talk with you and it won't be funny,' " the boy testified of his words to Poulin. "I think (Poulin) got pretty scared."

The boy never did physically stop Poulin from using a paddle for the discipline and defence lawyer Zia Chishti asked why not.

"I didn't want to push it because I knew she could do stuff," said the boy. "She loved rat poison. It worried me. There was always some around. She always talked about it. She could have fed it to us any time because she made all the meals."

The boy's sister, now age 11, also testified in court Friday. She said she saw Poulin put something in a pot of soup that didn't look like spice. She said Poulin tried to hide the bottle that day when the girl asked her what it was.

Her brother picked up the story from there.

"We all got sick," he said of the time after eating that soup. "My brother got a little better, then he got worse.

"My brother got sick and he was not getting proper medical attention, as far as I was concerned and he eventually died. That scared me."

Jenkins, at one point in the testimony Friday said he wanted to emphasize that despite the nature of the testimony, all participants should remember that Poulin is not charged with anything arising from these alleged facts concerning the death of the eldest boy.

The sister also told court she was upset about the death.

"(Poulin) wouldn't let him have a blood transfusion," she said, adding that it was her belief that a transfusion would have saved his life.

At this testimony, Poulin held her hand to her forehead covering her face as she sat pale and staring downward.

Poulin sits in court wearing the same clothing each court day - a navy blue dress with purple floral print and broad white lace trim, a matching bonnet, a white afghan-style shawl with a purple ribbon closure, white socks and light blue canvas deck shoes.

Her pale, elderly face hidden behind thick glasses shows little expression as she sits still with tightly drawn, pursed lips throughout the proceedings.

The boy testifying Friday appeared close to tears but remained composed when he told court he was now living with a foster family located off the Island.

He said his father "is not fit to take us right now," that his eldest brother is married but is already looking after two of his sisters so he can't live there and that other older brothers are too busy at work to care for him. His mother remains at the commune, convinced Poulin is a prophet of God, said the boy.

His sister also appeared confident and sincere in her testimony, though she showed greater impatience trying to understand the thick accent of defence lawyer Chishti.

She told the court she phoned her eldest brother living off the Island to come get her and she escaped one night last year, fleeing into the woods to meet her brother and his wife as they waited near the farm in a car.

The boy told court his challenging attitude toward Poulin resulted in his expulsion from the commune. The adults gave him money, put him alone on a bus and told him to leave. He ended his travels when he met up with elder siblings.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday as the Crown begins the presentation of three more child witnesses.

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