Man behind ‘brutal’ assault not guilty of attempted murder of Whitby woman

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Published February 13, 2024 at 2:55 pm

The man behind the ‘brutal’ assault of a woman, later identified as Kimberly Black, in a Whitby wooded area has been convicted of aggravated assault and sexual assault, but acquitted of his charge of attempted murder.

Around 9:30 p.m. on July 23, 2020, Anthony Doiron-Francis attacked Black, who was out for a walk in a wooded area. Doiron-Francis admits he assaulted her but has denied he tried to kill her or sexually assault her.

Justice Catriona Verner describes Doiron-Francis as a “tall, large male, approximately 20 years old, who weighed over 220 pounds” on the evening of the attack. He began the night on the porch of his Fawcett Ave. home with his uncle.

At 8:15 p.m., Doiron-Francis left his home to go for a walk. Several home security cameras picked him up as he walked east from the home.

Around 8:30 p.m., Black also left her house in the same area to go for a walk. Verner describes her as 50 years old, approximately five-foot-seven and 154 pounds.

Security cameras recorded her walk past Doiron-Francis’ home, heading west shortly before 9 p.m. Nearly 90 seconds later, the camera saw Doiron-Francis pass by after her. Doiron-Francis had been out walking for more than 40 minutes. Neighbourhood cameras tracked him following Black for nearly another half hour.

The recordings lose Doiron-Francis in a wooded area near Anderson St. where Black was assaulted. He had steadily caught up with her over the walk. At the last recording, he was a mere 30 seconds behind her.

Doiron-Francis later testified he had a “perverted habit” of filming women’s buttocks while they walked. Videos on his phone confirm this, but he had previously only done this in well-lit, indoor areas. According to him, this is why he began following Black. He claimed he rushed up behind her and turned on his flashlight, which startled her.

She confronted him and his “gut instinct” was to “whack” her with his phone. At this point, Black began to scream. Doiron-Francis told the court he continued the assault to quiet her screaming, resulting in both of them falling into a nearby creekbed. He admitted on the stand to striking her several times.

By 10 p.m, witnesses saw a man who matched Doiron-Francis’ description leave the park. He was wearing only his underwear.  When he arrived back home, Doiron-Francis’ father testified he had no clothes on and a fractured hand. Doiron-Francis told his father he had been “jumped” but gave conflicting stories as to how. He went to the hospital around 10:30 p.m. and left at around 2:30 a.m. During this time, and throughout the morning, he repeatedly searched “Whitby news” on his phone.

However, Black was yet to be found. Her husband, Rob Tardik, called Durham Regional Police at around 11 p.m., but officers didn’t find her until nearly 10:30 the next morning. Officer Nick Marchand finally spotted her in a heavily wooded area at the bottom of a creek embankment.

Black lay beside the creek, unconscious, with her leg in the water. She was badly beaten with two black eyes, a broken jaw and missing teeth. Marchand was able to find a weak pulse through the swelling, but Black was barely breathing. Instead of a rising and falling chest, Marchand told the court he could only hear a “horrific gargling noise.” Marchand managed to clear her airway and contact nearby paramedics.

The paramedics got Black on a spinal board to pull her out of the creek bed. However, firefighters first had to clear a path through the brush to the road with chainsaws. Following this, she was rushed to the airport to be flown to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in an Ornge air ambulance. She lost all vital signs before takeoff.

Not stable enough to fly, Black was taken to a local hospital in hopes of stabilizing her. Despite life-saving efforts, Black was pronounced dead shortly before noon. “Somewhat miraculously, her heart started beating again soon thereafter,” Verner later wrote.

She was soon stabilized enough for the flight to St. Michael’s. There, she was listed as in critical condition with rib fractures, a collapsed lung, a broken spinal bone at the top of her spine, skull fractures and bleeding around the brain.

Her attending physician, trauma surgeon Dr. Aaron Nauth, told the court her injuries were more akin to a major car accident or armed attack than an unarmed one. Nauth continued by saying if her attacker had been unarmed, they would have received significant damage to their hands.

While Black fought for her life in St. Michael’s, Doiron-Francis was looking for an escape. He made multiple searches on his phone around 8 p.m., including “how many murder cases go unsolved,” moving to Ottawa and travelling to British Columbia, Nunavut and North Dakota.

On Aug. 4, Doiron-Francis did indeed head for Ottawa, where he stayed with friends. He was arrested at a friend’s house on Aug. 13. Black stayed in hospital for nearly a month. She was in a coma for the first two weeks.

A GoFundMe was set up to assist Black’s recovery in the days after the attack. Over the ensuing months, it would become a record of Black’s recovery. The day after his arrest, Doiron-Francis donated $300, writing, “It’s so horrible what happened.” The fundraiser organizer called the donation “unthinkable.”

Per the GoFundMe, which ultimately raised $127,000, Black was back on her feet by the fall. She had submitted her Master’s degree thesis just before the attack and was able to defend it in November. In the years since she’s worked toward her Ph.D., become a vocal advocate regarding violence against women and has been honoured with a scholarship in her name at Oshawa’s Ontario Tech University.

(Editorial note: This vocal advocacy and widespread coverage of the attack led Insauga to report Black’s identity even though victims in sexual assault cases are rarely identified.)

Though Doiron-Francis readily admitted to aggravated assault, he denied the attempted murder and sexual assault charges. In an attempted murder case, the crown prosecutor needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt the accused intended to kill the victim.

Verner ultimately concluded, “There are too many questions with the Crown’s theory to find with confidence that Doiron-Francis formed the specific intent to kill,” and found him not guilty. However, he was convicted of the included aggravated assault charge.  She also found the attack was “objectively sexual” and convicted Doiron-Francis of aggravated sexual assault.

Doiron-Francis will be sentenced at a later date.

Aggravated assault carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, while aggravated sexual assault carries a possible life sentence.

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