A suspect in a puzzling, eight-year-old Manitoba mystery is now a convicted murderer.
Former Winnipegger Traigo Andretti entered a surprise guilty plea on Wednesday in British Columbia to killing and dismembering his wife, Jennifer McPherson, who was also a longtime Winnipeg resident.
Police discovered scattered human remains on a remote island near Alert Bay, off the east coast of Vancouver Island, last spring, They were confirmed as belonging to McPherson, who was reported missing from Hanson Island, B.C., on May 1, 2013.
Andretti, who acted as his own lawyer, was given a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years after admitting to first-degree murder and indignity to a human body.
The couple had been living on Hanson Island as caretakers of a remote fishing resort called the Pacific Outback Resort.
Paul Rudan, a reporter with the Campbell River Mirror, said Andretti offered little explanation for the gruesome crime on Wednesday. Lawyers revealed he was co-operative upon his initial arrest and even gave police a tour of the island to show them where he had disposed of the remains, including some he burned.
There was also no mention Wednesday of how this development could impact the ongoing cold-case investigation in Manitoba.
Andretti, 38, and McPherson, 41, once lived at a Lorne Avenue rooming house before moving west more than five years ago. Family members of McPherson say she met Andretti through a dating website shortly before leaving Manitoba.
Following Andretti's arrest for killing McPherson, investigators in B.C. received information they passed on to Manitoba authorities. That triggered an extensive search of the Lorne Avenue home, where the remains of Myrna Letandre were discovered.
Letandre was 37 when she vanished without a trace in 2006, and her name was added to the list of 28 missing and murdered Manitoba women being investigated by a police task force beginning in 2009.
Manitoba RCMP have only confirmed they were given "very valuable" information from the B.C. case but have released no other information. There have also been no arrests made in Letandre's slaying, which has left her grieving family members wondering when justice might be served.
"It's really hard and very frustrating. There really is no justice for missing and murdered women," Susan Caribou, a relative of Letandre's, said earlier this year. "It's not fair. There is no closure for our family."
Andretti had contact with Letandre while they were living in Winnipeg. One source described it as an informal relationship. RCMP previously stated they believe Letandre may have briefly lived at the same Lorne Avenue home, although they wouldn't disclose whether it was with Andretti.
Andretti has a form of autism and has been a cause of concern for police and justice officials after he failed to take prescribed medication. He has a criminal history in Manitoba and B.C., including a violent attack against McPherson in 2008 that netted him probation.
"Mr. Andretti and his wife got into a verbal argument, and she asked him to leave," Crown attorney John Blackman told court at the time. "He punched her once, nothing more, and she had a bloody nose. Mr. Andretti does have a form of autism and was off his medication. When he does that, it leads to negative behaviour."
The judge ordered Andretti to stay on his medication as a condition of his probation "so he will not be a danger to others and himself." McPherson wrote a letter to the court asking the charges be dropped, according to a report at the time in a North Island Gazette report.