POLITICS

New Brunswick man sexually assaulted, killed and buried his teen cousin: Crown

09/18/2012 10:29 EDT | Updated 11/18/2012 05:12 EST
MIRAMICHI, N.B. - A New Brunswick man charged in the death of his 16-year-old cousin picked her up while driving on a rural stretch of road, sexually assaulted her and killed her before burying her in the woods, the Crown said Tuesday.

Opening arguments began in the trial of Curtis Wayne Bonnell, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Hilary Bonnell three years ago.

Crown lawyer Bill Richards told the jury that it will hear evidence that the 32-year-old accused held Hilary against her will, sexually assaulted her, killed her and buried her body near an old firing range to avoid detection on the morning of Sept. 5, 2009.

"He did this in a very short period of time, perhaps a half hour after he picked her up," Richards told the Court of Queen's Bench.

Richards said Curtis Bonnell took police two months later to the site where her body was found.

Hilary vanished after attending a house party on the Esgenoopetitj (Es-geh-no-peh-titch) First Nation on Sept. 5, 2009. Her disappearance gripped the native community and triggered an exhaustive search.

The girl's body was found two months later, and Curtis Bonnell was charged in December 2009.

Richards told the six-man, six-woman jury that much of the evidence they will hear will consist of videotaped interviews that police conducted with Curtis Bonnell, and he warned them they will also be shown graphic pictures.

Following the Crown's opening arguments, RCMP Const. Joany Paradis testified as its first witness. Paradis said Pam Fillier, Hilary's mother, filed a missing persons report on Sept. 7, 2009, two days after her daughter was last seen alive.

Paradis said Hilary's cellphone was shut off on Sept. 5 at 12:06 p.m., according to service provider records. She said Hilary sent two text messages that morning to Haley Bonnell, the accused's sister.

"Please answer me I'm scared," said one text message sent at 7:52 a.m., the jury heard. Another sent a half hour later read, "OMF text me I'm scared."

Paradis said Haley Bonnell told her she didn't reply to Hilary because her cellphone battery was dead.

Under cross-examination, Paradis told defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux that Hilary had been reported missing eight times between 2007 and 2009.

Lemieux asked if Paradis read any other texts on the cellphone that might indicate Hilary was scared. Paradis said there was an earlier text at 7:25 a.m. that read "OMG Haley I want to leave."

The rest of the testimony Tuesday consisted of a police officer who described some photos of the area where Hilary was last seen and where her body was found, and an employee of the province's Natural Resources Department who testified that the distance between the home of the accused and the site where Hilary was buried was about 15 kilometres.

Eight weeks have been set aside for the trial in Miramichi. It continues Wednesday.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the testimony took place Monday.