Nicholas Bell-Wright shot Cooper Nemeth twice in head during drug dispute, court told

A Winnipeg teen whose disappearance sparked a massive police and volunteer search last year was shot to death during a drug dispute.

17-year-old Nemeth disappeared after leaving house party on Feb. 14, 2016, prompting huge search

Nicholas Bell-Wright was arrested the morning after Cooper Nemeth's body was found. (Instagram)

A Winnipeg teen whose disappearance sparked a massive police and volunteer search last year was shot to death during a drug dispute.

Those details came out in court Tuesday as Nicholas Bell-Wright, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Cooper Nemeth, 17.

According to an agreed statement of facts provided to court, Nemeth was selling Xanax pills and became acquainted with Bell-Wright through the illegal drug trade.

Cooper Nemeth, 17, disappeared after leaving a house party on Feb. 14, 2016. A massive search ended a week later when his body was found behind a home one street over from the location of the house party.

Nemeth, a Grade 12 student at River East Collegiate, was last seen alive by friends in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2016, when he left a house party on Amelia Crescent in the city's East Kildonan area.

Bell-Wright had told Nemeth he could help him set up a drug deal, Crown attorney Mike Himmelman told court, reading from the agreed statement.

The two left the home in Bell-Wright's car.

"A violent encounter subsequently occurred between the parties," Himmelman said.

Bell-Wright shot Nemeth two times in the head with a .22-calibre semi-automatic pistol.

After disposing of Nemeth's body, Bell-Wright drove to his Treger Bay home, where he "attempted an extensive cleanup of his clothes and vehicle using bleach, towels, spray paint and other supplies," Himmelman said.

Nemeth's parents reported him missing later that day, prompting a massive search effort that attracted hundreds of volunteers. Flyers with his photograph were posted around Winnipeg.

Nemeth's body was found nearly a week later, on Feb. 20, in a garbage bin behind a house on Bayne Crescent, just one street over from the house party. Bell-Wright was arrested the following morning in the Maples neighbourhood.

Blood on shoe, inside car

He had been questioned by police on Feb. 18 and provided inconsistent accounts about seeing Nemeth getting into a car with another drug buyer, the statement of facts says.

Police released him without charge but seized his clothing, including his running shoes, one of which which was later determined to be stained with Nemeth's blood.

A forensic examination of Bell-Wright's car "revealed a significant amount of the deceased's blood, consistent with the deceased having suffered the fatal gunshot wounds in the front seat," Himmelman said.

A preliminary inquiry for Bell-Wright was supposed to take place in July 2017 but during a court appearance in March, he instead was directly indicted at the Crown's request.

Nemeth's parents declined to comment outside of court on Tuesday, other than to thank police for their dogged work.

"That's the only reason we are here right now," Brent Nemeth said.

Bell-Wright will return to court for sentencing on Jan. 15, 2018, following the completion of a court ordered pre-sentence report.

The minimum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.