REGINA — The family of a murdered aboriginal woman says an apology from her killer means nothing unless he explains where her body can be found.
"Please just tell me where my daughter is,'' Michele Bear, the mother of Richele Bear, shouted at convicted killer Clayton Eichler as he was led out of a Regina courtroom Tuesday.
Eichler, walking in shackles, with his back turned, replied: "I don't have that answer. Sorry.''
"Burn in hell,'' someone shouted back, lacing the retort with profanity.
Angela Gray, the aunt of murder victim Richele Bear, pictured rear right with a photo of Kelly Goforth, rear left, wipes away tears at a press conference in Regina on September 19. (Photo: Jennifer Graham/CP)
The emotional scene unfolded after a judge sentenced Eichler to an automatic life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. Eichler had pleaded guilty a day earlier to the second-degree murders of Bear and another woman, Kelly Goforth.
Eichler's lawyer, Morris Bodnar, told court that his client was addicted to meth at the time of the killings. On Monday, Crown prosecutor Bill Burge told reporters that the women were sex-trade workers and it's believed that's how Eichler met them.
Before sentencing, Eichler apologized.
"If it means anything, I'm deeply sorry to all of you, my family as they sympathize with your family, 'cause there's no reversing this. We all know this pain's not going to go away for awhile, but I'm truly sorry,'' Eichler said as he stood, crying, in the prisoner's box.
Bear's body was never found
Goforth's body was found Sept. 25, 2013, wrapped in garbage bags, placed in a hockey bag and thrown in a Dumpster. She had been strangled.
Goforth was 21 years old and had an 11-month-old son.
Court heard that DNA found on Goforth's hand and on a necktie around her neck belonged to Eichler. That led to a search of Eichler's home where police found photographs of Bear in which she appeared dead.
Bear, 23, was reported missing Sept. 5, 2013. Her remains have never been located.
"If he really was sorry and he really was sympathetic toward me, he would tell me where my daughter is, and he would let my family bring her home so we can start our healing,'' Bear said outside the courthouse.
"If he really was sorry and he really was sympathetic toward me, he would tell me where my daughter is, and he would let my family bring her home so we can start our healing.'" —Michele Bear
Goforth's mother, Maxine, told court in her victim impact statement that the last three years have been agony. She said her daughter's son, K.C., will never feel his mother's love.
Later, outside the courthouse, Goforth said Eichler's apology was unexpected, but it satisfied her.
"He apologized. That means a lot. That means a lot because, you know, my baby was wrapped in garbage bags and a hockey bag and I thought he had no soul,'' said a tearful Goforth.
"At least I'll be able to tell ... my grandson K.C. that this man's sorry. It's been hard, hard on our family, and we've got to let it go.
"And I feel for the other family because they don't have a daughter to bury.''
Indigenous women at a greater risk for harm
Two indigenous groups who have been supporting the families said in a statement Monday that women who lead high-risk lives should never have to expect "that any lifestyle choice should make them a target for predators to hurt them or end their lives.''
The File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council and the Regina Treaty-Status Indian Services office said that "the realities and the vulnerabilities of our indigenous women are due to the immense poverty that is often faced by our indigenous people in the cities.
"As such, indigenous women are forced to put themselves at greater risk for harm.''
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