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Judge denies publication ban in Yellowknife murder case

The prosecutor argued the publication ban was necessary to protect the fair trial rights of Devon Larabie, the man accused of murdering 22-year-old Breanna Menacho.

Prosecutor argued the publication ban was necessary to protect the fair trial rights of the accused

The prosecutor argued the publication ban was necessary to protect the fair trial rights of Devon Larabie, the man accused of murdering 22-year-old Breanna Menacho. The judge wrote the prosecutor failed to show the publication ban was necessary. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Warning: this story contains a graphic description of violence.

The N.W.T. Supreme Court has turned down the Crown prosecutor's request for a publication ban on details of the death of a 22-year-old woman in Yellowknife last spring.

The details emerged earlier this month during the sentencing of Jordan Nande and Lisa Brulé, both of whom pleaded guilty to being accessories after the fact in the murder of Breanna Menacho.

The prosecutor argued the publication ban was necessary to protect the fair trial rights of Devon Larabie, the man accused of murdering Menacho. The prosecutor argued that the publication of details of Menacho's death would influence potential jurors. Larabie has not been ordered to stand trial. His preliminary inquiry is scheduled to take place in June.

CBC argued that the onus was on the prosecutor to show that publicizing details of Menacho's death would create a real and substantial risk of interfering with Larabie's right to a fair trial. CBC's lawyer argued that other measures, such as instructions from the trial judge and questioning potential jurors to determine if they are capable of rendering a fair decision, will mitigate any risk created by publishing the details.

Judge states importance of open court principle

In a decision released late Thursday, Justice Karan Shaner said the prosecutor had failed to show the publication ban was necessary. In her written decision, Shaner said, "the importance of the open court principle in a free and democratic society cannot be underestimated. It is a key element of holding the administration of justice accountable to justice system participants and the public at large."

Nande and Brulé each received a jail sentence of 10 months and two years probation, a sentence both their lawyers and the prosecutor agreed upon. One of the details media were not allowed to publish until now is that both said they helped Larabie because they were fearful of him.

According to the statement of agreed facts that was read aloud during the sentencing, Larabie threatened to kill 24-year-old Nande if he ever went to the police.

Brulé and Nande said that they, Larabie and several others were in the living room of Larabie's apartment the night of May 5 to 6, when Larabie suddenly attacked Menacho with a hatchet, striking her repeatedly in the head, body and neck, killing her.

During the sentencing hearing, Brulé's lawyer, Peter Harte, said Brulé was in the bedroom at the time and hid in a closet. "She could see [Larabie] through a crack in the door when he entered and she thought he was going to kill her."

Harte said his 21-year-old client heard Larabie threaten to kill Nande and she assumed he would do the same to her if she went to the police. In the agreed facts, Brulé said that shortly after the killing Larabie told her he had thought about killing everyone in the apartment.

Immediately after Larabie killed Menacho he ordered everyone to remain in the apartment, but everyone but Nande and Brulé ran out, according to the agreed facts. They said Larabie picked up Menacho's lifeless body and placed it in a stand-up freezer in the apartment. He then ordered Brulé and Nande to strip and shower, in an effort to hide any traces of the crime. 

The next day Nande and Brulé arranged to borrow a truck and a dolly to transport the couch and the freezer with Menacho's body out of town with the intention of burning both, according to the agreed facts. But after the person who agreed to lend his truck arrived at the apartment, he became suspicious and went to the RCMP.

Police came to the apartment shortly after and searched it, but could not find Menacho. According to the agreed facts, just as they were about to leave, one of the officers decided to open the lid of the stand up freezer, which was near the door, and found Menacho's lifeless body.

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