By Highlander Staff

A Haliburton man has been found guilty of manslaughter in the June 17, 2019 death of his housemate in the village.

Norman Hart, 33 at the time of his arrest, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Robert James Brown, 49, but guilty to manslaughter during a court appearance Sept. 7.

Justice Michelle Fuerst, in a trial by judge alone, found him guilty of the lesser, included offence.

Hart, who appeared via Zoom from the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, will be sentenced at a later date.

Rebecca Griffin, representing the Crown, read out an agreed statement of facts.

She said that Hart moved in with Brown at his rented house at 34 Highland St. at the end of May 2019.

She said the two got into an argument and then a fist fight over a $500 cheque from the City of Kawartha Lakes Housing Corporation that Hart – who had been drinking and using cocaine – brought home June 17.

“Norman Hart and Robert Brown got into an argument over how the money from the cheque would be split. The argument turned physical and Norman Hart, while still under the influence of alcohol and drugs, lost control and beat Robert Brown, causing multiple injuries, including serious head and chest injuries that led to his death.”

She said the cause of death, two or three hours after the fight, was multiple blunt force injury.

Hart then went to a friend’s apartment in the village where he borrowed a pair of pants and left some of Brown’s identification and the envelope and stub from the cheque. She said he tried to cash the cheque at Foodland but could not do so without ID so got a friend to cash it at a Bank of Montreal ATM for him.

He told a friend he had been fighting with Brown, and had knicks and blood on his knuckles. For part of the afternoon on June 17, he was in the park drinking with friends. “During that time, he made comments to the effect that he had hurt someone bad and might be in trouble.”

Griffin added that at 6:30 p.m., Hart spoke to his father on a borrowed cell phone, telling him he had some bad news. “He had been in a fight and hurt someone really bad.”

Hart returned to Brown’s residence some time after midnight June 18. Brown’s ex-girlfriend and another man came to the house. They saw Brown lying on the floor in the hallway, “cold to the touch and obviously deceased.” They called 9-1-1 and waited at the town docks.

Police arrived and Hart eventually stepped out. When the officer asked if everything was okay, Hart indicated it was not, “pointing inside and told the officer to go check it out.”

Police found Brown’s blood under Hart’s fingernail and noted his hand was so swollen there was no definition to his knuckles.

Defence lawyer Rob Chartier said supplemental facts indicated that on June 14 Hart and Brown had come to an agreement that Hart would get $400 and Brown $100. However, “sometime after Mr. Hart’s return to Mr. Brown’s residence with the cheque on June 17, Mr. Brown told Mr. Hart the cheque would be split equally. A verbal argument on that issue started between the two.” He said Hart was on the couch and Brown in the kitchen and Brown came to Hart where the two began to fight.

Dressed in CECC orange coveralls, Hart told Justice Fuerst he accepted the statements of fact. Chartier asked for a presentence report and the matter is scheduled to be spoken to on Nov. 15.

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