Curtis Bonnell was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years in the death of his 16-year-old cousin Hilary Bonnell.

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has reserved decision in the case of Curtis Bonnell, convicted of first-degree murder in the 2009 death of his 16-year-old cousin Hillary Bonnell.

Curtis Bonnell, 33, of Esgenoopetitj First Nation, was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

His lawyer Peter Corey argued Tuesday the trial judge, Justice Fred Ferguson, did not relate enough to the jury about the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.

Corey also argued text messages, including one from the victim saying she was scared, should not have been admissible.​

Crown prosecutor Cameron Gunn, however, argued the judge followed the correct step-by-step procedure for charging the jury.


Hilary Bonnell's body was discovered in a remote wooded area near Tabusintac. ((RCMP))

"If anything, the judge erred on the side of fairness to the accused," said Gunn, noting that Ferguson raised the intoxication defence with the jury, which the defence lawyer had not put forward.

In addition, Gunn said both the Crown and defence were included in the judge's creation of his charge to the jury and the defence did not object at the time.

Hilary's mother, Pamela Fillier, who attended Tuesday's hearing with her husband, told reporters she does not believe the three justices who heard the arguments will allow the appeal.

"I'm confident that they're not going to. He's not coming out. I have so much faith. He's not coming out."

Fillier said it was difficult attending the hearing, but the fact that Curtis Bonnell was not present made it easier.

"I don’t know if I would have been able to be so composed if he was in there," said Fillier.

Hilary Bonnell's mother Pam Fillier

Hilary Bonnell's mother Pam Fillier said she plans to erect a memorial to her daughter in August. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

​"When I first got in, it just took me right back, just like that first day that you go in court, that’s how it felt for me," she said.

"It hurts all the time. She would have been 21 yesterday. She would have been 21. I shouldn’t be here the day after my little girl’s birthday."

Fillier said she plans to erect a memorial to her daughter in August along Highway 11, where she was last seen.

Hilary’s disappearance from the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, commonly known as Burnt Church, on Sept. 5, 2009 sparked an extensive search.

Her cousin, arrested two months later, was accused of holding her against her will, sexually assaulting her and killing her.

Evidence at the trial showed Curtis Bonnell had told police, his father and a Esgenoopetitj First Nation spiritual elder that he had killed her. But the defence maintained the confession was given to police under pressure.

Two months later, Bonnell led police to a wooded area where he said he buried Hilary's body.

A jury found Bonnell guilty after deliberating for six and a half hours.