POLITICS

Man accused of killing Manitoba woman in 2006 changes mind, pleads not guilty

10/08/2014 11:31 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - A man who has repeatedly tried to plead guilty to killing a Manitoba woman eight years ago has changed his mind.

Traigo Andretti has pleaded not guilty in the death of Myrna Letandre in 2006 and is at this point heading to trial without a lawyer. Andretti is already serving a life sentence for killing and dismembering his wife in British Columbia.

The 38-year-old has tried to plead guilty three times before various judges in Manitoba, but he was rejected because it wasn't before the proper level of court.

But when he was formally given the chance to enter a plea on Monday, Andretti pleaded not guilty.

"Are you maintaining your position, your plea of not guilty?" Justice Shane Perlmutter asked Andretti again Wednesday.

"Yes," said Andretti softly.

Letandre, who was 37 and originally from Pinaymootang (Fairford) First Nation, was reported missing by her sister in 2006. Her remains were found in a Winnipeg rooming house in May 2013.

Police said she was in a relationship with Andretti, also known as Dylan Harold Grubb, before she vanished. They said Andretti was questioned at the time of Letandre's disappearance.

A joint unit of RCMP and Winnipeg police officers waited for Vancouver police to complete their investigation into the death of Andretti's wife before charging him and bringing him back to Winnipeg.

Andretti first tried pleading guilty in June and was given a month to consider hiring a lawyer. He refused to meet with counsel and tried to plead guilty again in July. In front of Letandre's sobbing sister, Andretti laughed and smirked while his case was discussed and before he was rebuked by the judge.

He was urged again to meet with a lawyer, but tried to plead guilty once again before changing his mind on Monday.

"I strongly encourage you to get a lawyer," Perlmutter told Andretti. "You are facing a very, very, very serious charge."

When asked if he would look into getting a lawyer, Andretti said "maybe."

Letandre's relatives weren't in court again to face Andretti. They have said in the past that Letandre was a loving woman who had "dreams and hopes for the future." They tried to tell police about Andretti at the time of Letandre's disappearance but were ignored, they said.

Andretti was given a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years in April after pleading guilty to the first-degree murder of his wife, Jennifer McPherson, who was also a longtime Winnipeg resident.

Police discovered the scattered remains of McPherson on a remote island near Alert Bay, off the east coast of Vancouver Island, last spring. The couple had been living there as caretakers of a remote fishing resort called the Pacific Outback Resort.

His pre-trial hearing is set for Oct. 30.