Winnipeg firefighter assaulted woman, forced her to have sex with his friends, court told

By | May 29, 2020

A woman accusing a Winnipeg firefighter and martial arts instructor of sexual assault testified at his trial Friday that he assaulted her, locked her in a room for hours at a time after they fought and forced her to have sex with three of his friends.

As she walked to the witness stand on Friday morning, the 35-year-old woman who was once Manuel Ruiz’s girlfriend glanced several times at the barrier that blocked her from seeing him. The woman cannot be named because of a publication ban.

Ruiz is charged with nine offences, including sexual assault, unlawful confinement and procuring someone to have illicit sexual intercourse with another person.

Three additional charges involving another woman were stayed. The rest of the charges against Ruiz are connected to a third woman, who testified against him on Wednesday and Thursday.

None of the allegations against Ruiz have been proven in court.

The woman who testified Friday said the assaults began one day at one of his martial arts gyms on Sherbrook Street. Ruiz brought in three of his friends to have sex with her, then left the room, she told Crown attorney Michelle Bright.

“He said, ‘You’ll do it if you love me,’ so I did,” the woman said through tears. “I didn’t want to, but I was scared.”

Three additional charges against Ruiz involving another woman were stayed. The rest of the charges he faces are connected to a third woman, who testified against him on Wednesday and Thursday. (Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench)

Defence lawyer Matt Gould asked the woman why she told police in 2017 that there was only one man involved in that assault. The woman said she was embarrassed to tell officers it was actually three.

“I felt cheap,” she said, sobbing. “He made me feel cheap all the time.”

The woman could not remember when that incident happened.

The woman said at a preliminary hearing related to the case in February 2019, she testified that it was four men who assaulted her that day, including Ruiz’s brother. She said in court on Friday the statement from that hearing was false, and that she said it because her sister asked her to.

The woman said she believed the incident with Ruiz’s brother may have been something that happened to her sister, who died in 2018.

Gould said the incident never happened at all.

The woman testified that after Ruiz’s friends left, he gave her $80. 

Victim struggled with addictions since age 15

The woman said she met Ruiz in 2002, a few weeks before she turned 18, when she started going to a martial arts gym he owned on Sherbrook Street. The woman said Ruiz offered her free classes and bought her several uniforms.

The woman said she had a part-time job at the time and went to school at Aboriginal Community Campus. She said Ruiz would give her liquor, clothing, jewelry and money, which she often used to buy drugs.

The woman, who said she is currently waiting to get into a treatment program, said she has struggled with addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol since she was 15. She said she had stopped using drugs for six years at one point, but relapsed after her sister died.

She said she also used methamphetamine for about six months last year, during which time she lost custody of her three young children and was barred from seeing them.

The woman said she and Ruiz started dating soon after they met. In 2006, the woman said, she moved in with Ruiz at the church he owned on Maryland Street.

About eight times during their relationship, the woman said Ruiz locked her in a room inside the church and left her there while he went out.

She said sometimes she would be stuck inside for up to 10 hours and would have to urinate in a cup or bowl.

Gould said the door the woman was talking about did not have a lock on it at the time, and said the woman did not actually check whether she was locked inside.

The woman said she and Ruiz lived together for about four months and dated on and off until around 2009.

The woman said after the incident with the three men, Ruiz started getting rougher with her when they had sex, and would often use martial arts techniques to hold her down.  

‘I’m still scared of him’

On another occasion in 2009, the woman said, Ruiz invited her to the church to see souvenirs he had brought back from a trip to Cuba. The two had drinks and Ruiz offered the woman a massage, she said.

When she got on the massage table, the woman said, Ruiz started massaging her, then pulled her shirt off and flipped her onto her back. He then pulled down her pants and started penetrating her, she said.

The woman said she tried to stop him, moving her body and trying to pull her pants back up, but he overpowered her.

“He didn’t even ask me if I wanted to. He just did. And when he was done, he threw $40 at me,” she said.

“I was really scared of him and I’m still scared of him to this day. I’m always checking over my shoulders when I go out, so I don’t leave the house anymore.”

Gould asked the woman why that story changed slightly from when she told it to police in 2017, and suggested it was another example of her telling someone else’s story. The woman denied that accusation, and said trauma and drug use have made some of her memories unclear.

The woman said about six months after that incident, she applied for a protection order against Ruiz, which she said was denied.

Friday was the fifth day of the trial against Ruiz.

The judge-only trial, being heard by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey, is expected to wrap up on Tuesday.

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