Edmonton

Trial underway for Edmonton man accused of strangling woman in his apartment

Gregory Tessman, 53, is on trial for the second-degree murder of Valerie Maurice. The 29-year-old woman who police said led a high-risk lifestyle was strangled in Tessman's apartment in August 2017.

Gregory Tessman is charged with second-degree murder of Valerie Maurice

The photo posted by Edmonton police when they issued a warrant for the arrest of Gregory Christopher Tessman. (Edmonton Police Service)

An Edmonton man on trial this week for second-degree murder in Court of Queen's Bench said he felt like a monster after he strangled a woman. 

Gregory Tessman, 53, is accused of killing Valerie Maurice in August 2017. At the time, Edmonton police described Maurice as a woman who lived a high-risk lifestyle and often travelled between her home in Montreal and Edmonton. 

The 29-year-old's body was found in Tessman's north Edmonton basement suite after a friend of the victim asked police to check on her welfare. 

By that time, Tessman had fled the scene and a Canada-wide warrant was issued for his arrest. 

He was arrested five days later by Vancouver police at a homeless shelter. 

The next day, Edmonton homicide detective Ken Bruns flew to Vancouver with his partner to interview Tessman. During the course of the interview, Tessman confessed to strangling Maurice.

The three-hour video was played at Tessman's trial Tuesday and Wednesday in what's known as a voir dire, or a trial within a trial. 

Justice Doreen Sulyma will hear arguments from the Crown and defence Thursday about the admissibility of the tape. 

Tessman pleaded not guilty to a single charge of second-degree murder on Monday. 

Tessman was highly emotional throughout most of the interview with Bruns as the detective eventually convinced him to reveal what happened in his apartment the night Maurice died. 

Early in the interview, Tessman said he felt regret about what happened.

"I'd rather be dead right now," Tessman told the detective.

Tessman said he didn't know Maurice, but contacted her through a website. He said she arrived after midnight and the two of them sat on a couch in his living room. 

"People heard a fight," Bruns said during the interview. "Slapping or smacking and some yelling. She was loud. She was screaming. What was it that upset her so much?" 

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

Tessman said he didn't have any money to pay her and that made her angry. He told the detective they didn't have sex. She was going to leave and he was afraid she'd call the police.

He said he'd been in jail before and didn't want to go back, so he decided in a panic that he had to keep her quiet.

"She started screaming and scratching and flipping out," Tessman said. "I made her quiet. I put my hand over my mouth." 

'I feel like a monster'

Tessman said he took a blanket from the couch and put it over her head, then placed his hands around Maurice's neck. 

"She had marks on her face," Bruns said. "There were bruised muscles on both sides of her neck. You held onto her neck until she passed out." 

He said Maurice was unconscious but still alive. Tessman told the detective he tied her up, then dragged her by the arm into his bedroom. He covered her face with the blanket.

While she was on the floor on her back at the foot of his bed, Tessman told the detective he put his hands on her throat a second time until she stopped breathing. 

"When you physically put your hands around someone's neck and squeeze the life out of them, that's a big deal isn't it?" Bruns asked. "That bothers you doesn't it?" 

"Yes," Tessman replied. "I feel like a monster. If I could take it back, I would." 

After his confession, Tessman asked for a cheeseburger with a Pepsi. 

The judge-alone trial is scheduled to last four weeks.

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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