POLITICS

Mother of Hilary Bonnell, allegedly killed by cousin, testifies at murder trial

09/19/2012 10:16 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST
MIRAMICHI, N.B. - The mother of a 16-year-old New Brunswick girl allegedly killed by her cousin said she felt relieved after testifying Wednesday at the first-degree murder trial of Curtis Wayne Bonnell.

"It's about time the process starts because I couldn't get over any of this," said Pam Fillier, Hilary Bonnell's mother, outside the Court of Queen's Bench in Miramichi.

"I couldn't even begin the grieving process when I still feel like I have to be strong for her because she needs justice."

Earlier in the day, Fillier told the court that she spoke with her daughter hours before she was last seen alive on Sept. 5, 2009.

She said Hilary, who was attending a house party in Esgenoopetitj (Es-geh-no-peh-titch) First Nation, phoned her shortly after 3 a.m. and sounded happy. She said it appeared her daughter may have been drinking.

"She sounded giggly," Fillier told the jury.

Fillier said she phoned Hilary later that morning but there was no answer.

"I thought she was still sleeping," Fillier said.

The jury was then shown surveillance video from a local gas station that showed a girl enter and leave the store between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. that day. Fillier identified the girl as Hilary.

The video also showed a man arrive at the station about three minutes later and drive off in a red pickup truck. Fillier identified him as Curtis Bonnell.

A few of Hilary's friends were later called to testify to describe the events of Sept. 4 and the early morning hours of Sept. 5.

Haylie Bonnell, the accused's sister, said she was babysitting at her sister's home on the evening of Sept. 4 when Hilary and other friends arrived. She said they pooled their money and bought liquor from a nearby bootlegger.

She said after all the liquor was gone, Hilary left to go to a party, but returned a few hours later.

The Crown asked why she returned.

"She said there were perverts over there," Haylie said.

Haylie said Derek Joe, a friend of Hilary's, later drove them to a house party where they continued drinking. She said everyone at the party was drunk.

Haylie said Hilary left the party a few hours later with Spencer Joe, another friend, but returned briefly to get a sweater she left behind. Haylie said that was the last time she saw Hilary.

Haylie said Curtis Bonnell later stopped in the driveway of the house party. She couldn't recall the time, but said it was light out and long after Hilary had left.

Haylie told the court her cellphone battery ran out of power sometime during the morning of Sept. 5 and it wasn't until five days later that she charged the phone and retrieved a number of texts that Hilary had sent to her.

Haylie read two of the texts in court. They read: "Please answer me I'm scared," and "OMF text me I'm scared." The texts were sent at 7:52 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. of Sept. 5.

"I was shocked," Haylie said. She said she immediately notified the police.

Spencer Joe, 23, later told the court that he and Hilary left the party and went to his house.

"We watched a movie, got intimate, and then she left around 7 or 7:30," he told the court.

He said he saw Hilary walk out the door, but didn't see where she went.

Bonnell, 32, has pleaded not guilty in Hilary's death.

In opening arguments Tuesday, the Crown said the jury would hear evidence that the accused picked Hilary up while driving on a rural stretch of road, sexually assaulted her and killed her before burying her in the woods.

Hilary went missing after going to the house party. Her disappearance gripped the local community and triggered an exhaustive search.

Her body was found two months later, and Curtis Bonnell was charged in December 2009.

Eight weeks have been set aside for the trial.