A Winnipeg man has been found guilty of a series of violent robberies that preyed upon female escort workers.
Devin Schwark, 35, stood trial in January accused of robbing eight escorts in early 2021. In a written decision released this week, King’s Bench Justice Ken Champagne convicted Schwark of assaulting and robbing three victims over 16 days.
Charges involving five additional alleged victims were either dismissed or stayed by the end of Schwark’s three-week trial.
Court was told Schwark had contacted all three victims via websites that catered to sex workers. He met two of them in their hotel rooms and the third at her Tuxedo-area apartment. Schwark choked and assaulted the women before robbing them of cash and belongings and fleeing.
There was no forensic evidence such as DNA or fingerprints that linked Schwark to the crimes, but two of his victims identified him in a photo lineup and security video from outside Schwark’s home showed him driving away at times that corresponded to a man and car matching the same description captured on security video at the robbery scenes.
Schwark’s lawyers argued there were problems with the way police conducted the photo lineups and security video evidence purporting to show him at the scenes lacked sufficient detail to prove it was him.
“The totality of the identification evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Schwark” attacked and robbed the three victims, Champagne said.
Court was told Winnipeg police began investigating reports that escort workers were being robbed beginning in December 2020 and determined they had been committed by the same person.
After reviewing security video from several of the robbery scenes, police noted two vehicles of interest, a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier and a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, but could not discern their licence plate numbers. A computer search confirmed the same automobile models were registered to a woman living at a Transcona address that was associated to Schwark.
One victim testified Schwark had threatened to kill her moments after she let him into her apartment.
The woman said Schwark bent over and was appearing to remove his shoes when he quickly stood up, wrapped his hands around her throat and squeezed.
“(She) believed she was going to die,” Champagne said, recounting the woman’s testimony. “She fought back. She grabbed her assailant by the neck and squeezed as hard as she could. She was fighting for her life. He responded, escalating the violence by punching (her) in the face multiple times.”
Schwark took the woman’s keys as he fled.
The woman reported the attack to police but did not disclose her line of work, fearing if her landlord found out she would be evicted.
The following day, the woman reviewed building security footage with the building manager and took a screenshot of the man she believed had attacked her, which she posted to her Facebook page.
The picture, as well as the cellphone number Schwark used to message the victim, were later reposted on an escort-related website, where another victim saw it and identified Schwark as her attacker.
Schwark remains in custody and will return to court for sentencing at a later date.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
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