2 men admit beating Victoria County man to death

Two men admitted Friday to beating a Victoria County man to death during a robbery in March 2016 and dumping his body in the Renous River.

Kurt Hudnut-Pelletier and James Melanson plead guilty to manslaughter in the death of Wayne Rattray

Kurt Hudnut-Pelletier, in the suit, and James Melanson, in grey sweat pants, enter the Woodstock courthouse Friday. (Catherine Harrop/CBC )

Two men admitted Friday to beating a Victoria County man to death during a robbery in March 2016 and dumping his body in the Renous River.

Kurt Hudnut-Pelletier and James Melanson pleaded guilty in Woodstock, N.B., to manslaughter in the death of Wayne Rattray, 59.

Rattray's body was discovered on an island in the Renous River in May 2016, about two months after he was reported missing from his home in Tilley, a rural community about 32 kilometres south of Grand Falls.

On March 2, the same day Rattray disappeared, emergency crews responded to a fire at his home, which was destroyed.

His pickup truck was found engulfed in flames five days later off Highway 109 in Three Brooks, about 25 kilometres east of Tilley. 

Pair 'lost control'  

According to an agreed statement of facts, Hudnut-Pelletier and Melanson, both from Moncton, had been doing hard drugs on March 1, the day before Rattray vanished.

Wayne Rattray's body was found on an island in the Renous River, about 162 km from his Tilley home, where he was last seen on March 2, 2016. (RCMP)
After unsuccessfully attempting to rob someone else, they decided to try Rattray, who had sold them cocaine in the past, Justice Fred Ferguson of the Court of Queen's Bench said. 

When they arrived at the house, Melanson went inside and began punching Rattray in the face. Melanson and Hudnut-Pelletier then hauled Rattray outside and tried to get him to reveal where he stashed his money and drugs.

Rattray was injured too badly to speak, Ferguson said. 

Used hatchet as well

During the assault, Melanson and Hudnut-Pelletier "lost control," and beat Rattray to death, Ferguson said. The victim  was also cut with a hatchet. 

The two men hauled Rattray's body in a truck to the north Renous River and slid his body and the hatchet through an opening in the ice. 

In the middle of the night, the pair set fire to Rattray's truck. 

Melanson and Hudnut-Pelletier will return to court May 28 for sentencing. 

Linda Leach, Wayne Rattray's sister, was in court Friday to watch the proceedings. (CBC )

Rattray's sister, Linda Leach, was in court Friday to witness the proceedings. 

Outside the courthouse, she said he was her youngest brother, so the last two years have been difficult. 

A third man, Luke Frank Ellick of Three Brooks, pleaded guilty earlier to robbery and accessory after the fact of murder. He was sentenced to three years in prison on the first charge and four years on the second.  

Two women, April Sandy Berube and Jose Andrea Saint Amande, are also facing charges related to the incident.