A man has pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of 27-year-old Ardeth Wood, who went missing while cycling on an Ottawa bike path in 2003 and whose body was found days later.
Christopher Myers, 27, entered the plea Tuesday morning in an Ottawa courtroom after his lawyers reached a deal with the Crown.
As part of the deal, he will be sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 10 years, the soonest possible for a second-degree murder conviction. He served two years while awaiting trial, so could be released as soon as eight years from now.
Myers had been scheduled to be tried for first-degree murder in a couple of weeks after a string of pre-trial motions.
Myers also pleaded guilty Monday to charges of robbery and sexual assault that took place in the Ottawa and North Bay areas.
During the hearing, an agreed statement of facts was read, including Myers's admission that he drowned Wood and committed a string of sex crimes against other women.
'It's a gap in our life': Wood's mother
Wood's entire family attended the hearing, including her mother, father, brothers, their spouses and her uncles. Some members of the family flew in from far away.
Her mother, Catherine Wood, read an emotional statement about the impact that the death has had on the family. She said her greatest joy was bringing Ardeth home as a baby from the hospital, and her greatest sorrow was putting her 27-year-old daughter's body in a grave.
Not trusting his voice, Ardeth's father, Brenden Wood, relied on the Crown to read his thoughts about the blackness that has descended on his family since his daughter's body was found more than four years ago.
Afterward, the Woods spoke to reporters outside the courtroom.
"It's a gap in our life," Catherine Wood said. "Our beautiful daughter is dead. She would have contributed so much to society."
She expressed empathy for her daughter's killer, who was described in court as a man who was developmentally delayed, passed part of his difficult childhood in different foster homes and has been diagnosed with psychological problems.
"God desires not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live," Catherine Wood said. "It's sad to see a man so young have this happen to him, and he's had a very difficult life from the very beginning…. So I just hope that his prison years will help him to reform and that he can pay back the debt perhaps that he owes to his mother, who has been with him through all of this. It must be very difficult for her."
'A trial is always an uncertain thing': lawyer
She added that it was a relief that the family did not have to go through a lengthy trial, a sentiment echoed by lead Crown attorney Hilary McCormack.
"A trial is always an uncertain thing. It was going to be a lengthy trial, a complex trial," she said, adding that even if the trial jury determines that the accused is guilty, it is never as satisfying to a victim's family or the community as a guilty plea. "This is an acceptance by him, this is an admission by him that he is the person who killed Ardeth Wood."
Myers declined an opportunity to speak in court about the killing.
Wood, who was completing her PhD in philosophy at the University of Waterloo, disappeared Aug. 6, 2003, while cycling near the Aviation Parkway. She had been visiting her family in Ottawa.
Her body was found five days later.
Myers was charged with first-degree murder in October 2005, when he was in police custody in North Bay on unrelated charges of sexual assault and forcible confinement.