Edmonton

Edmonton man pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2017 strangulation case

On day seven of his 20-day second-degree murder trial, Gregory Tessman pleaded guilty to the manslaughter death of Valerie Maurice. The decision was made after a judge ruled Tessman's confession tape inadmissible.

Gregory Tessman admitted he killed a 29-year-old female escort

Gregory Tessman has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the August 2017 death of Valerie Maurice. (Edmonton Police Service)

A four-week second-degree murder trial ended abruptly last week less than halfway through, after the accused killer pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Gregory Tessman, 53, was charged with the second-degree murder of Valerie Maurice. He was accused of strangling the Montreal resident who had visited Edmonton in August 2017 to work as an escort. 

At the time, Edmonton police said the 29-year old was strangled to death. 

The first week of the judge-alone trial was dedicated to a voir dire, that is, a trial within a trial. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma had to decide if a confession tape recorded by Edmonton police after Tessman's arrest could be admitted into evidence. 

The judge decided on May 3 the tape was inadmissible because the accused was in a compromised mental state and did not make his confession voluntarily. 

On May 4, Tessman pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

According to an agreed statement of facts entered with the guilty plea, Tessman contacted Maurice to use her services as an escort on Aug. 29, 2017. Her roommate dropped her off at his northeast Edmonton apartment around midnight. 

Tessman and Maurice were sitting on the couch in the living room when Tessman revealed he didn't have any money to pay her. Maurice said she was going to leave and Tessman tried to stop her. They began to argue and Maurice started screaming. 

"In an attempt to stop or quiet the screaming, the accused covered her mouth with his hands and she started to fight back," the court document states. 

She kept screaming so Tessman put his hands around her neck and strangled her until she was unconscious. 

Valérie Maurice, 29, was from Montréal. (Facebook)

Tessman enlisted the help of his female roommate, Dianne Molenkamp, to drag Maurice into the bedroom. 

Both of them were in the bedroom when Maurice's hands and legs were tied up with clothing items. Her face and body were covered after clothing items were stuffed into her mouth. 

At some point overnight, Maurice succumbed to her injuries and died. 

Vancouver arrest 

Maurice's roommate returned to Tessman's apartment to pick her up at the appointed time, but he was unable to reach her by phone. He kept ringing the buzzer at the front door and Molenkamp told him Maurice had already left. 

Her roommate contacted police early the next morning to report Maurice missing. Four hours later, officers found her body on the bedroom floor of Tessman's apartment covered with a blanket. Paramedics removed some of the clothing that had been stuffed in her mouth. 

An autopsy revealed the cause of death was strangulation. Maurice had multiple bruises to her face, head and body along with scrapes to her face and hands.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Tessman and Molenkamp bought Greyhound bus tickets to travel to Victoria, leaving from Edmonton on September 1. 

Tessman was arrested at a homeless shelter in Vancouver on September 5 and charged with second-degree murder.

He remains in custody and will be sentenced for manslaughter on September 13. Tessman's defence lawyer declined to comment on the case.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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