Fernando killers plead guilty

Two Winnipeg men have pleaded guilty to murdering 24-year-old Roxanne Fernando after she refused to stop pursuing a romantic relationship with one of them.

Two Winnipeg men have pleaded guilty to murdering a pregnant 24-year-old woman after she refused to stop pursuing a romantic relationship with one of them.

Nathanael Plourde, 22, pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder and Jose Toruno,22, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Roxanne Fernando was beaten to death with a wrench on Feb. 15, 2007. Her body was found buried in a snowbank in a remote area of northwest Winnipeg a few days after she disappeared.

She was reported missing by her family three days later.

Winnipeg police announced the arrests of Plourde and Toruno and a 17-year-old youth on Feb. 27, 2007.

The youth pleaded guilty two years ago this month to first-degree murder and was sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act to a six-year prison term to be followed by four years of probation.

In a brief summary of the facts of the murder presented in court Thursday, Crown attorney Mark Cantor said Plourde and the youth hatched a plot to kill Fernando if she wouldn't agree to break off pursuing a relationship with Plourde.

At the youth's sentencing hearing, Judge Marvin Garfinkel called the killing a "well-planned execution."

Toruno was called by Plourde to help dispose of Fernando's badly-beaten body in a snow-filled ditch near Mollard Road and Ritchie Street.

Plourde's guilty plea to first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence without parole eligibility for 25 years.

However, Canadian law contains a faint-hope clause, meaning Plourde could be granted parole by a jury after 15 years.

Toruno faces a life sentence without parole for 10 years, but his parole eligibility could be hiked to as much as 20 years.

A sentencing hearing will take place Friday — sentencing did not proceed Thursday to allow Fernando's family a chance to attend and possibly present victim impact statements to the court.

Court heard Plourde and Toruno only decided to plead guilty at 12:30 CT Thursday, after the close of a week-long pretrial hearing into the admissibility of key pieces of evidence.

A jury trial was set to begin, but 10 jurors and 2 alternates were dismissed by the court after Toruno and Plourde entered their guilty pleas without the jurors knowing.