Friday, January 23
By Barb Pacholik, Leader-Post
January 23, 2009 10:01 AM
REGINA — The sound of weeping filled a Regina courtroom Thursday as the family of Amber Tara-Lynn Redman, who was missing for three years, heard the disturbing details of her death — and told her killer how she lived.
“I want to let you know that Amber was a very beautiful, caring, loving and strong woman,” Gwenda Yuzicappi, the mother of 19-year-old Redman, wrote in a victim-impact statement. Overcome by emotion, Yuzicappi had a relative read the statement aloud. “I want you to know that her father went to his grave not knowing where his baby girl was. I want you to know my love for my daughter will be everlasting.”
In a penned statement shared with the Leader-Post, Yuzicappi recalled her daughter’s artistry and beauty as a fancy dancer, with her shawl as her wings, her arms gliding like an eagle in flight, and her light footwork “as if she was dancing on clouds.”
“Amber was an angel sent by the Creator, and only they knew her purpose here on Earth,” she wrote.
It was in stark contrast to the grisly details of her death, revealed after Albert Patrick Bellegarde, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of second-degree murder. Justice Frank Gerein imposed a mandatory life sentence, and set parole eligibility for 15 years, as recommended by the Crown and defence.
“Your criminal act was evil in its essence; terrible in its consequences,” Gerein said.
Throughout most of the proceedings, Bellegarde, 29, sat with his head bowed — even when Redman’s aunt demanded he look at her as she read her statement. Like several family members, Beverley Yuzicappi was wearing a red jacket, with red stars on a white stripe on the sleeve in honour of Redman’s Indian name “Red Star Woman.” The back of the jacket, prepared at the time of endless searches, bears Redman’s name and the words “missing” and “July 15, 2005.”
“Do you have any remorse? Why, why did you do that to my niece?” Yuzicappi asked after hearing how Bellegarde beat the young woman, threw her off a balcony, drove a butcher knife into her head, then kept silent while her family searched in vain.
The mystery of Redman’s disappearance was solved only because of an elaborate so-called “Mr. Big” RCMP sting operation, in which Bellegarde unwittingly led undercover investigators to her body. When one of the undercover officers asked Bellegarde what it was like to kill, his chilling reply was captured on tape: “To be honest with you, it was exhilarating.”
Defence lawyer Mervyn Shaw urged the judge to consider that Bellegarde uttered those words because he was trying to impress men who were boasting about their supposed crimes. Shaw said the tape also recorded Bellegarde saying killing is morally wrong.
Bellegarde, himself, told the court, “I’ve been sorry since this has happened, and I’ll be sorry for the rest of my life for my part that I played in this.”
He had other words for the media awaiting his departure from the courthouse: “F--- you, all you National Enquirer motherf---ers.”
Bellegarde was arrested on May 5 last year — the same day Redman’s remains were found in the bush on the Little Black Bear First Nation.
She had been missing since July 15, 2005 when she want to Trapper’s Bar in Fort Qu’Appelle, 50 kilometres away, with her boyfriend and cousin. Her boyfriend left following an argument. Her cousin never realized Redman was gone until he went out to his car and found her purse there. The only evidence of what happened to her after that comes from the words captured on video and audio by undercover Mounties posing as criminals, Crown prosecutor Alistair Johnston said.
According to Albert Bellegarde, he and his cousin Gilbert Bellegarde saw Redman in the bar’s parking lot, and she voluntarily got in their vehicle. A murder charge laid against Gilbert Bellegarde was stayed last month, effectively bringing an end to any proceedings against him. He has remained silent about what occurred.
Albert Bellegarde said they went to a house on the reserve, where they all were drinking. He said his cousin and Redman ended up in a bedroom. When he heard screams coming for that room, he went in and found his cousin striking Redman. Bellegarde told undercover officers he hit Redman because “I didn’t want no heat on me.” Shaw said Bellegarde has always been protective of his cousin and believed Redman’s jaw was broken.
After his cousin staggered from the room, Bellegarde knocked out Redman, threw her off a balcony, and dragged her into the bush. She was unconscious but alive when he returned to the house for a butcher knife. He went back in the bush and swung the knife into the top of her head “to finish her off.”
According to Bellegarde — who was sentenced in 2000 to four years in prison after he shot at a woman and brutally raped another — he had no sexual activity with Redman.
When investigators found her body, it was wrapped in a blanket and unburied. Her bones had been ravaged by predators, and some were scattered.
According to Shaw, Bellegarde has prayed for forgiveness since the killing. “He says, ‘I couldn’t have done this sober,’” the lawyer added. “I offer this by way of an explanation, not by way of excuse.”
Outside of court, Shaw told reporters, “Today is a very difficult day for Albert because today is the day he accepts fully and publicly responsibility.”
Johnston paid tribute to the “extraordinary dignity” shown by Redman’s family, and commended the Mounties for their efforts in “pulling out all the stops” to find Redman and her killer.
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post
Wednesday, January 21
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Project KARE and the Edmonton Police Service are seeking public assistance in locating Maggie Lee BURKE.
BURKE, a missing person, is described as a 21 year old Aboriginal female,170 cm or 5' 7" tall, weighing approximately 55 kg or 120 lbs. She had brown eyes and naturally brown hair with red streaks at the time she was last seen, December 09, 2004. She was reported missing to the Edmonton Police Service on December 18, 2004.
At the time of her disappearance BURKE was engaged in the sex trade industry, a high risk lifestyle, in the area of 118th Avenue in Edmonton. The Project KARE Proactive Insurgence Team in cooperation with Edmonton Police Service and community organizations in the Edmonton area have been following up on investigational leads, all of which have been met with negative results. Project KARE and the Edmonton Police Service are treating this case as a missing person where foul play is suspected and as such are issuing an appeal to the public for any information that might assist in locating BURKE.
Police are requesting anyone that has any information on the location of Maggie BURKE or may have seen her after December 09, 2004 to call Project KARE, toll free at 1-877-412-KARE(5273) or the Edmonton Police Service at 423-4567 or Crime stoppers, toll free.
If Ms. BURKE becomes aware of our interest she is encouraged make contact with investigators.
- 30 -
Wayne A. Oakes, Cpl. 780 - 412 - 5260 Bus
Media Relations Officer 780 - 910 - 2355 Cell
RCMP “K” Division 780 - 419 - 0536 Pager
A media availability will be hosted at RCMP “K” Division 11140 109 St., this afternoon at 5:00 pm.
This press release will be posted on the Project KARE at http://www.kare.ca
Updated: January 21, 2009 9:34 AM
RCMP have called a meeting for families of murdered and missing women in the Highway of Tears cases for Thursday in Vancouver.
“They didn’t speak on really what it’s all about,” Matilda Wilson, the mother of murdered Ramona Wilson, said on Monday.
“I’m not sure what the next topic will be. In the last one.. it’s always something like they’re `still working on it’ and `it’s very slow’ and things like that.
“We’re trying to keep this alive. We still don’t know if this person is going to do this again, is going to strike again.”
Late last year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Canada to set up an inquiry that will not only look into reasons for the failure of law enforcement to investigate the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women over the past two decades.
A recent report on Canada’s compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women called on the government, “to take the necessary steps to remedy deficiencies in the system.”
In British Columbia, 18 women have gone missing along Hwy 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert, dubbed the Highway of tears.
In September, family and friends of the victims met with the Walk 4 Justice group to travel from Prince Rupert to Parliament Hill to raise awareness about the perceived inaction of the police and various levels of government.
“A unity has been formed and people can start working together to voice their opinions and get something done about it,” Brenda Wilson, sister of the late Ramona Wilson whose remains were found in 1995 and Smithers Highway of Tears campaigner, told The Interior News.
At the federal all candidates debate in October, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen said the Prime Minister had a lot to answer for because he didn’t come out and accept the petition.
“I was really impressed with the Prime Ministers’ apology to First Nations residential school survivors,” Cullen said. “But his actions when these people walked all the way to Ottawa — he was given three months notice and he was in Ottawa that day — it makes me doubt the sincerity of that apology.”
Three Smithers area women are among the many missing and dead women along the Hwy of tears: Cecilia Anne Nikal who went missing in 1989, last seen in Smithers, Delphine Nikal who diappeared from Smithers in 1990 while hitchiking to Telkwa and Ramona Wilson whose remains were found near the Smithers airport in 1995. None of these cases have been solved and in some people’s view not even adequately investigated.
Carrie Humchitt, president of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network said the high level of stranger violence experienced by Aboriginal women is not the committee’s only concern.
“The committee is also concerned about the poverty of Aboriginal women, their poor health, inadequate housing, lack of access to clean water, low school completion rates, and the high levels of child apprehension from Aboriginal parents,” Humchitt stated.
“The committee urges Canada to develop a comprehensive and integrated plan for addressing the conditions of Aboriginal women as a matter of urgency.”
Highway of Tears
Sunday, January 18
Saturday, January 17
By Barb Pacholik, Leader-Post
January 15, 2009
REGINA -- Unwrapped Christmas presents still wait for a 17-year-old Regina girl who hasn’t been seen in more than a month.
“I’m not going to give up on my search,” the mother of Tara-Lyn Poorman vowed. Shellyn Kay stays near her phone “every chance I can.”
“Not knowing — do you know how hard that is?” she added, breaking into the sobs that punctuated most of Wednesday’s interview.
Kay has spent the last month spreading the word about her missing daughter, putting up posters, searching the area where she was last seen, and fielding calls from whomever might have a tip.
“It’s been more than a month now. Where the hell is she?”
Kay feels certain of one thing — her daughter is not a runaway.
“There was no sign of her leaving,” she said, adding Poorman’s belongings all remain where she left them at the home of her brother, where she moved two months ago. The Grade 11 student at Cochrane High School, who volunteered at the Rainbow Youth Centre and last year was named a youth ambassador, was also looking ahead.
“She was a really good kid,” said her mother, adding that Poorman was hoping to join a humanitarian group building houses in Mexico this summer. She talked about donating her long hair to an organization that makes wigs for children struggling with cancer. “That’s the kind of child I have.”
Kay last saw her daughter around 11 p.m. on Dec. 11. That’s when friends came by the house where Kay was babysitting for a relative. The teens urged Poorman to join them at a “sweet 16” party for another friend.
“That’s the last time I ever saw her,” Kay said. “Because they were altogether, I felt they’d be fine.”
Kay has been told Poorman, the eldest of her two daughters, left that house in the 400 block of Halifax Street around 3 a.m. on Dec. 12 with the intention of heading home. According to her mother, Poorman had money for a taxi rather than walking alone. She was dressed in a black three-quarter-length winter coat, black leggings, long purple shirt, and black suede boots.
Although Saturday typically was “mother-daughter” day for the pair, Kay didn’t immediately become alarmed when she didn’t hear from Poorman. But by Sunday, “I couldn’t rest . . . It wasn’t like her to not phone me.” Kay reported her missing to Regina police that evening.
She’s grown frustrated since then, believing police “didn’t take it seriously” and should be doing more to find her child.
Regina Police Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said two investigators from the major crimes unit are working on Poorman’s disappearance — “more because of their experience and not necessarily because we have any indication of anything criminal occurring.”
Popowich added that police efforts in a missing persons case may not always be visible to the public, as work is done to track down and follow information rather than physically search.
“We have people working on it every day,” she said. “I realize that it still hasn’t produced the result this family wants, but that isn’t necessarily something that we control.”
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post
Friday, January 16
By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun
January 15, 2009
VANCOUVER — The Crown and the defence filed detailed arguments, numbering about 100 pages each, in court in mid-December as they prepared for the appeal of Robert (Willie) Pickton's second-degree murder conviction.
Pickton was convicted a year ago of six counts of second-degree murder, and his appeal is set for March 30, 2009. Nine days have been set aside.
The Crown believes Pickton should have been convicted of first-degree murder, while the defence argues he should have been acquitted.
Lawyer Gil McKinnon, who is handling Pickton's case, has now dropped two of the grounds he planned to appeal. Both challenged the evidence heard at the trial, including the statements Pickton made to police.
Instead, he will focus his appeal on the trial judge's actions when the jury asked him a question during their deliberations.
Justice James Williams initially answered the jurors' question, but a short time later halted their deliberations for several hours. He later explained he had made an error and, in an unusual move, changed the legal instructions he had given to the jury.
The Crown and defence have until Feb. 27 to file written responses to each other's grounds for appeal.
The Crown's appeal argues Williams erred by splitting the 26 first-degree murder charges Pickton faced into two trials.
B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal has said if Pickton's appeal is unsuccessful and his conviction stands, the Crown will not proceed with a second trial on the remaining 20 counts.
That's a disappointment for many of victims' families.
Lilliane Beaudoin's sister, Dianne Rock, is among the 20 victims, and Beaudoin and husband Rene have written to politicians demanding the second trial be held.
"We're not going to give up. I promised myself and my sister that I would fight to the bitter end, that I would get justice for her," Beaudoin said. "I don't care about the cost (of a second trial), because now you're putting a price on my sister's life."
Rick Frey, whose daughter was among the six victims Pickton was convicted of killing, said he almost hopes Pickton's appeal is successful so that the other 20 families can get some answers.
"I don't think we're really excited that March is going to be another page in this book, but I'm pulling for the other 20 families. They need to have their day in court," Frey said.
Pickton is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Saturday, January 3
From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the first of many "songs around the world" being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe. This and other songs such as "One Love" will be released as digital downloads soon; followed by the film soundtrack and DVD early next year.
Sign up at www.playingforchange.com for updates and exclusive content available only to those who...
Join the Movement to help build schools, connect students, and inspire communities in need through music
Friday, January 2
The Canadian Press
January 2, 2009
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Three months after Robert Pickton was found guilty on six counts of second-degree murder, a high-ranking judge issued an appeal for patience from families frustrated that 20 other murder charges still had not been heard.
"It has not been overlooked that there are many persons whose voices have not been heard," Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm said, speaking in the same courtroom where Pickton's lengthy trial was held.
"The court appreciates the silent voices' cry for a conclusion to this ordeal."
Dohm spoke during a hearing on the timing of Pickton's second trial, addressing his remarks to the families of an additional 20 alleged Pickton victims contained in a second indictment.
The defence wanted the second trial on those 20 counts to proceed as soon as possible. The Crown wanted to wait until after his appeal on the first convictions had been heard.
Dohm ruled Pickton wouldn't face the second trial until the appeal of his original convictions is decided.
The B.C. Court of Appeal is set to hear the appeal arguments starting March 30.
Pickton initially faced 26 first-degree murder counts, but the trial judge separated the charges into two trials to simplify the process.
Shortly after Dohm's decision, Attorney General Wally Oppal announced that Pickton would not face trial on the remaining 20 counts unless his six murder convictions are overturned on appeal.
If the Appeal Court upholds the six convictions, the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch will drop its plans for a trial on the remaining 20 murders Pickton stands accused of committing.
If the court orders a new trial, the Crown wants all 26 first-degree counts to be heard at once.
Clearly, much rests on the appeal.
Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of killing Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.
Appeal courts usually take only a day or two to hear arguments. The length of time set aside for the Pickton appeal - two weeks - is extraordinary.
"I've never done an appeal that's taken me so long to prepare,"' said Vancouver lawyer Gil McKinnon, who will represent Pickton. "This is the most complex appeal."
The defence will argue only the grounds of appeal that arose from Justice James Williams's instructions to the jury when it came back on the sixth day of deliberations with a question, said McKinnon.
The question was: "When considering Element 3 on one or more of the counts, are we able to say 'Yes' if we infer the accused acted indirectly?"
The jury was referring to one of the five elements Williams laid out in his instructions to establish whether Pickton is guilty on each count.
Element 3 asked the jury to decide whether Pickton was the individual who killed the person named in the murder count.
The other elements dealt with whether the victim died by an unlawful act, the time and place of death and whether Pickton meant to cause their deaths and acted deliberately.
In response to the jury's question, Williams told them to delay their deliberations. Two hours later, he told them they could consider whether they believed Pickton actually shot some of the victims or was an active participant but didn't pull the trigger.
The judge said he had been "not sufficiently precise" and "in error" in three paragraphs of his original charge.
"I regret that I misinformed you," he told jurors. "It was inadvertent. However it is important that you be instructed (as) properly as I'm able and thus these amendments have been provided to you."
The change involved his instructions on the deaths of three of the six women - Abotsway, Wilson and Joesbury.
The judge gave each juror three sheets and said they replaced three paragraphs of his earlier charge.
"If you find that Mr. Pickton shot Ms. Abotsway or was otherwise an active participant in her killing, you should find that the Crown has proven this element.
"On the other hand, if you have a reasonable doubt about whether or not he was an active participant in her killing you must return a verdict of not guilty."
The three victims' bisected heads were found near the trailer of the accused. All had been shot in the head.
Some legal observers emphasized that a trial judge's errors must be quite serious for an appeal court to order a new trial.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said that an accused is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial, said one source who requested anonymity.
"This (Pickton case) is interesting in that there are appeals from both sides and . . . that to me means the judge must have been right," he said.
The source said the "vexing question" for him was why the jury acquitted Pickton of first-degree murder but found him guilty of second-degree.
Susan Wishart, a criminal lawyer who speaks on legal issues for the B.C. branch of the Canadian Bar Association, speculated the jury "could have found that somebody else was running all of this and he was there and assisting."
"So is he planning and deliberating? No. But does he have an intent to kill? Yes. That's second-degree and not first," she said.
The Appeal Court is careful not to speculate about why a jury arrived at a certain decision, said Wishart.
"But at the same time they are very careful about saying, 'Yes, this evidence or instruction from the judge could have affected their verdict.' "
Oppal said the Crown was challenging the verdict because it believed Pickton planned to kill his victims and should have been found guilty of first-degree murder.
The Crown also claims the trial judge erred in deciding to hear only six counts. It will also argue that the judge erred by failing to instruct the jury that dismemberment and disposal of the victims' remains on the Pickton property was relevant to the issue of planning and deliberation.
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