Calgary man accused of fatally shooting cousin offers to change plea mid-trial
Michael Onischuk, 35, is on trial for 2nd-degree murder in death of Jessie Hanaghan
A Calgary man on trial for murder has changed his plea mid-trial, offering to plead guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Michael Onischuk, 35, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his cousin Jessie Hanaghan, 37, who was fatally shot in October 2020.
Onischuk also faces an attempted murder charge.
On Oct. 29, 2020, Onischuk and his girlfriend were arguing in his bedroom when he shot her, according to the Crown's opening statement last week.
The bullet travelled through Larissa Cowan's cheek and a bedroom wall before striking Hanaghan, who was in a different room.
Last week, the trial was delayed after Cowan, the Crown's key witness, disappeared.
Court of King's Bench Justice Earl Wilson issued a witness warrant and Cowan was picked up hours later.
Cowan was set to testify Monday morning but defence lawyers Andrew Phypers and Jeremy Newton told the judge that the accused wanted to plead guilty to manslaughter.
The trial was adjourned to Tuesday, when an agreed statement of facts will be presented. Crown and defence are expected to have a joint position on sentencing.
Allegations of witness tampering
Before adjourning on Monday, prosecutor Vicki Faulkner asked the judge to reiterate the court-ordered condition that Onischuk not have any contact with Cowan.
"That's not common," said Wilson. "She must have a real good reason why she's anxious with this."
The judge spent several minutes explaining the trouble Onischuk would be in if he breached the condition.
Last week, Faulkner told the judge she expected to introduce evidence alleging Onischuk had tried to tamper with two witnesses, including Cowan.
Cowan previously told police she received a letter from Onischuk, sent from the Calgary Remand Centre.
The letter detailed what Cowan should say in court, including "a story about how the gun ended up firing," said Faulkner.