POLITICS

Man accused of killing cousin says he told police what they wanted to hear

10/30/2012 10:20 EDT | Updated 12/30/2012 05:12 EST
MIRAMICHI, N.B. - A New Brunswick man accused of killing his 16-year-old cousin says he didn't think the police would believe him if he told them he had no idea how she died.

In a second day of testimony at his murder trial Tuesday, Curtis Bonnell said he confessed to police because they kept telling him what they believed happened, and he just told them what they wanted to hear.

He also said he couldn't tell police the whole story because he didn't know how Hilary Bonnell's body got into his pickup truck on Sept. 5, 2009.

"I never murdered her. I never laid a hand on Hilary Bonnell," he said. "I've waited three years to tell this story. It has been a long three years."

Bonnell told defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux that he thought his race damaged his credibility with the police, so he didn't tell an officer he blacked out from drinking and doing drugs before he found his cousin's body in his truck.

"He wouldn't have believed me anyway," Bonnell testified. "I thought, I'm just another lying Indian to you."

Bonnell, 32, has pleaded not guilty in the Court of Queen's Bench in Miramichi to first-degree murder.

Hilary went missing after attending a house party on the Esgenoopetitj (Es-geh-no-peh-titch) First Nation.

When the trial opened six weeks ago, Crown attorney Bill Richards told the jury that her cousin held Hilary against her will, sexually assaulted her and killed her.

He said Bonnell buried her body near an old firing range to avoid detection.

Bonnell led police to where Hilary's body was on Nov. 9, 2009, a day after his arrest.

In the police lock-up, Bonnell said he had bad dreams and asked to speak with spiritual healer David Gehue.

A recording of the phone conversation was played for the jury and in it, Gehue asks Bonnell if he had taken a life. Bonnell, speaking in Mi'kmaq, says yes.

During his cross-examination, Richards asked Bonnell why he had admitted to killing Hilary.

"Dave Gehue said I took a life. That's how I perceived it. I truly believed him."

As well, he said, police were repeatedly telling him what they believed happened.

"Do you know if you killed Hilary Bonnell?" Richards asked.

"I don't think so," Bonnell said.

"But you don't know?" Richards continued.

"I don't know," Bonnell replied.

Richards spent most of Tuesday afternoon questioning Bonnell about what he remembered from Sept. 4 and Sept. 5 in 2009.

He asked if Bonnell remembered seeing Hilary, picking her up, or hitting her. Each time, Bonnell replied "No."

Richards showed a video of Bonnell being interrogated on Nov. 8, 2009, and suggested that he was trying to hide his right hand from police because of a cut on his knuckle.

He suggested that Bonnell had hit Hilary and cut his finger on a piercing she had above her eye. Bonnell denied the suggestion.

When he was arrested, Bonnell said he thought police would be able to tell him what happened to Hilary because he didn't know how she died.

"I thought the investigation would end there and they would come and tell me what happened," he said in response to a question from his lawyer.

"I didn't have any answers."

Bonnell has told the jury that he began drinking at his home on Sept. 4, 2009, and moved to a bar in nearby Neguac where he snorted cocaine. He said at some point he blacked out and woke up the next morning in Tabusintac to find Hilary's body next to him in his pickup truck.

After realizing Hilary was dead, Bonnell said he panicked and loaded her body into the back of the truck.

He said he left Hilary's body next to a tree in the woods, but returned the next day and buried her at a more remote location because he was worried what animals might do to her body.

Richards asked Bonnell why he didn't call 911 and seek help for Hilary.

"I panicked," Bonnell replied.

Richards also questioned Bonnell about a statement he made to a police officer on Dec. 2, 2009, asking why he said he killed Hilary at his house and put her in the back of the truck there.

"I was lying," he said. "It was what he wanted to hear. ... I wanted it all to end."