Two accused plead guilty to murder

Woman slain in '07 was carrying killer's baby


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WINNIPEG -- Two Winnipeg men pleaded guilty to the cold-blooded killing of a pregnant woman just as their high-profile jury trial was set to begin Thursday afternoon.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/10/2009 (4695 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG — Two Winnipeg men pleaded guilty to the cold-blooded killing of a pregnant woman just as their high-profile jury trial was set to begin Thursday afternoon.

Nathanael Mark Plourde, 21, admitted to first-degree murder and now faces the mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Jose Manuel Toruno, 21, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder under a plea deal with the Crown. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. The Crown can seek to have his eligibility raised to as much as 25 years.

Queen’s Bench Justice Glenn Joyal will sentence both men on Friday morning.

Roxanne Fernando, 24, was slain in February 2007 in what police and justice officials have described as one of the worst cases in recent memory.

A 17-year-old co-accused pleaded guilty to first-degree last year and was given the maximum youth sentence — six years of prison and four years of probation — for what was described in court as a “callous, well-planned execution”. The Crown agreed not to try to raise him to adult court.

Court heard Fernando learned she was pregnant weeks before her death. The father was Plourde, who she’d met while working at the McDonald’s on Main Street.

Plourde offered the youth $500 and a 32-inch television to carry out the act. He initially refused, but began participating in the sinister plot, court was told.

A meeting was set up on Feb. 15 – the day after Valentine’s Day – in which Fernando had expected to exchange gifts with Plourde.

She wrapped up a box of chocolates and got into a waiting car – unaware that the youth was hiding under a blanket in the back seat. He had also participated in an earlier trip to the store to buy supplies which included leather gloves and rolls of tape.

Fernando was driven to Little Mountain Park on the northwestern edge of the city on the guise of there being a “surprise” waiting there for her.

The youth sprung out from under the blanket and began attacking Fernando at the isolated park, along with Plourde. Fernando was hit with a wrench up to 20 times, bound with tape and wrapped in a blanket before being stuffed in the trunk of the car.

It was thought she was dead. But as the car began driving away, sounds could be heard coming from the rear.

Panic set in and a third accused – Toruno – was picked up and paid $120 to assist in Fernando’s killing. The money had been taken out of Fernando’s purse by the youth as she lay dying in the trunk, court was told.

Fernando was taken to a remote area near Mollard Road and Ritchie Street in northwest Winnipeg and repeatedly beaten with a broken hockey stick until she was clearly dead.

Her body was then buried in a snow ditch.

Fernando’s killers went to McDonald’s for a bite to eat, stopped at Safeway for some cleaning supplies for the vehicle and then text-messaged at least one of Fernando’s friends – using her cell phone – indicating all was well.

Fernando’s friends and family members launched a desperate search that included distributing missing persons posters and peppering the Internet with her photo and police contact information by sending out e-mail alerts to hundreds of people asking for assistance.

Her body was discovered several days later.

The death of Fernando’s unborn baby didn’t result in an additional murder charge because Canadian law, unlike the United States and other countries, doesn’t recognize a fetus as a living being.

Fernando and her family had come to Canada from the Philippines in 2003. She had been working as a banquet server at the downtown Radisson Hotel.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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