New details emerging about the accused in a vicious sexual assault on a homeless native woman in Prince Albert, Sask., depict a man who grew up in poverty on a reserve, struggled with substance abuse and has done time behind bars for a slew of charges, including stealing a pickup truck.
Marlene Bird was found in a parking lot on June 1 with half her face cut off and her legs burned so badly they had to be amputated.
Leslie Ivan Roderick Black, 29, has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault in the attack.
Court records indicate Mr. Black was sentenced in April, 2012, to 12 months in jail for charges that included drunk driving, possession of marijuana and stealing a 1997 Ford F-150 truck in Shellbrook, Sask., in 2010. Other charges listed include theft under $5,000 from Zellers, Safeway and Superstore.
Documents obtained from the provincial court in Saskatchewan indicate Mr. Black was also charged with stealing a motor vehicle in 2009.
On June 20, 2013, he received a ticket for being intoxicated in a public place. The next day, he got another ticket, this time for having liquor in a public place.
And in April, just months before Ms. Bird was attacked, Mr. Black was charged with stealing merchandise from Sears.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Black was living in public housing in Prince Albert, according to a property record search performed by The Globe and Mail. Previously, he lived on the Mistawasis First Nation reserve, court records from 2010 show.
Friends of Mr. Black said they were shocked to learn of the assault charges against him. They described a kind, fun-loving guy who was cheery and loved to joke around, despite his poor upbringing.
“He is one of those people who are always smiling,” said Dale LaRose, a family friend in Regina who has known the accused for seven or eight years.
Chadwrick Mathurin, who was roommates with Mr. Black for several months in a minimum security prison, said he was stunned to hear about the accusations.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said.
Mr. Mathurin has fond memories of passing the time in prison by playing cards and indoor volleyball with Mr. Black.
“We never had problems,” Mr. Mathurin said. “He was always a good guy. That’s why I was shocked to find out this happened.”
After they were released, Mr. Mathurin and Mr. Black stayed in touch using Facebook, writing each other every few months to find out how things were going.
Mr. Mathurin last heard from Mr. Black about a month and a half ago. Mr. Black told him he had a job delivering newspapers.
“He seemed like he was not doing that great, but he was doing alright,” he said. “It seemed like he was drinking a lot.”
Connie Farber said she encountered Mr. Black during her last year working with vulnerable populations before she switched to a new job last fall.
Ms. Farber, whose work involved providing services to people living in poverty or struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems, said she did not know Mr. Black well, but she always thought he seemed “relatively harmless.”
“I certainly didn’t feel afraid of him when I saw him,” Ms. Farber said. “He seemed polite, quiet. He didn’t appear angry.”
Mr. Black is expected to appear in court on Wednesday to discuss bail.