NEWS

'I'm scared,' Hilary Bonnell texted cousin before death

09/18/2012 03:50 EDT | Updated 11/18/2012 05:12 EST
Hilary Bonnell sent three alarming text messages to a cousin shortly before her death, the jury in the first-degree murder trial of Curtis Bonnell heard on Tuesday.

"OMG Haley, I want to leave," Hilary texted to her cousin Haley at about 7:25 a.m., Const. Joany Paradis testified in Miramichi provincial court.

"Please answer me, I'm scared," the 16-year-old wrote at 7:52 a.m., said Paradis.

"OMF, text me, I'm scared," was Hilary's last message, sent at about 8:20 a.m., the officer told the courtroom.

Curtis Bonnell, of the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, is charged with the murder of Hilary, his first cousin, in 2009.

The Crown alleges Bonnell, 32, picked up Hilary on Sept. 5 at about 8 a.m., as she was walking along Micmac Road in the northeastern community following a party.

Bonnell is accused of holding Hilary against her will, sexually assaulting her, killing her and then driving her to an isolated location, far from the reserve, all within a half an hour, prosecutor Bill Richards said.

Hilary was reported missing two days later. She had run away eight times in the previous two years, according to police.

Her body was discovered in a wooded area near Tracadie-Sheila after more than two months of searching.

Led police to body

Bonnell, who has been in custody awaiting trial since December 2009, took police to the wooded area, where Hilary's body had been buried, Richards said.

Bonnell also made several statements to police, which will be shown to the jury, he said.

The police focused their investigation on Bonnell fairly early in the case, he said.

Bonnell travelled down Micmac Road to visit his sister at about the same time Hilary was walking there, said Richards.

Hilary was about 30 minutes from her destination, Richards said. Her last communication were the three text messages to Haley's cellphone, which was seized by police. Haley is the sister of the accused, the courtroom heard.

The 12-member jury will see some graphic pictures, Richards warned during his opening remarks.

Bonnell showed little emotion during the court proceedings. He turned his chair to face the judge instead of the jury and took notes throughout the day.

Hilary's mother to testify

His parents and Hilary's parents were asked by the judge to leave the courtroom. He didn't want their testimony to be influenced by previous witnesses, he said.

Bonnell's family and Hilary's family told CBC News they're hoping the judge will reconsider.They've been waiting three years for the trial, they said.

At the very least, they are hoping the lawyers will take their wishes into consideration in deciding the order in which the witnesses are called to testify, they said.

Hilary's mother, Pamela Fillier, could testify as early as Wednesday.

The Crown called a total of four witnesses on Tuesday, including three RCMP officers and a mapping specialist with the Department of Natural Resources who makes maps based on GPS points and analyzes distances between specific locations.

One of the officers analyzed seven cellphones, including the one owned by Haley.

The other officer, a forensic identification specialist, took hundreds of photos in the case, including ones of a home in Esgenoopetitj, a 1995 Chevy pickup truck, the excavation of Hilary's body, and of the autopsy conducted at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

The trial is expected to last up to eight weeks.

About 45 witnesses will be called, including Hilary Bonnell's parents, Pam Fillier and Boyd Bonnell.

In his instructions to the jury, Judge Fred Ferguson urged them to keep an open mind and not to discus the case with anyone, other than fellow jurors.

Bonnell has pleaded not guilty and must be presumed innocent unless otherwise proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the Crown, the judge said.

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