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Killed for refusing an abortion

A 17-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder after a pregnant Winnipeg woman was brutally beaten and buried in a snowbank for refusing to have an abortion, the Free Press has learned.

The motive behind the February 2007 death is emerging for the first time after the young killer cut a deal with Manitoba justice officials.

"Those are the facts we will be advancing," Crown attorney Brent Davidson said Wednesday, admitting it's one of the more disturbing cases his office has seen.

The teen -- who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act -- will not be raised to adult court, where he would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/10/2007 (3628 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A 17-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder after a pregnant Winnipeg woman was brutally beaten and buried in a snowbank for refusing to have an abortion, the Free Press has learned.

The motive behind the February 2007 death is emerging for the first time after the young killer cut a deal with Manitoba justice officials.

"Those are the facts we will be advancing," Crown attorney Brent Davidson said Wednesday, admitting it's one of the more disturbing cases his office has seen.

The teen — who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — will not be raised to adult court, where he would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Instead, he will appear in provincial court on Tuesday and receive the maximum YCJA sentence of 10 years.

Davidson said the only issue for a judge to determine is what portion of that decade-long penalty will be served behind bars. Under the YCJA, the maximum is six years custody and four years community supervision.

Davidson said that's what he's asking for but expects defence lawyer Marty Minuk to seek less jail and more time in the community.

Roxanne Fernando, 24 — known to friends and family members as "Apple" — was found dead in a snowy ditch near Mollard Road and Ritchie Street in northwest Winnipeg several days after she disappeared. Police believe her frozen body had been deliberately concealed.

Police arrested the youth and two adults — Nathanael Mark Plourde, 19 and Jose Manuel Toruno, 19 — and charged them with the most serious offence in the Criminal Code. Plourde had previously dated Fernando, according to Davidson.

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 was in the early stages of her pregnancy and had apparently kept it secret from many of her close friends.

Plourde and Toruno remain before the courts, are presumed innocent and none of the allegations against them has been proven. No preliminary hearing or trial dates have been set and the facts being presented against the youth have no bearing on their status.

Davidson said there are no deals in place requiring the youth to testify against the co-accused, although it's possible he could be subpoenaed down the road.

Fernando's friends and family members had 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.

A brief video of Fernando was posted on the YouTube website, showing her photo over the music of Coldplay's Fix You. Winnipeg police also issued a public notice in the days after Fernando's disappearance seeking information.

Friends say when Fernando didn't return home or call on the night of Feb. 15, her family knew something was wrong because it was so out of character for her.

"She was not the type to go out and stay out all night," one friend told the Free Press. "She would always tell her family where she was."

Police believe Fernando was killed on the same day she went missing.

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.

Her mother, Elisa, and sister, May, are expected to be in court next week and will be giving victim impact statements, said Davidson.

A pre-sentence report has also been prepared for the teen. He had been living with his family in north Winnipeg and will turn 18 in December. He has been in custody at the Manitoba Youth Centre since his arrest nearly eight months ago.

www.mikeoncrime.com

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