Nova Scotia

Preeper brothers plead guilty to murdering Melissa Dawn Peacock

Dustan Joseph Preeper and Joshua Michael Preeper have been sentenced in the murder of Melissa Dawn Peacock.

WARNING: This story contains language and violent details that may offend some

Dustan Joseph Preeper is taken into Truro Provincial Court in 2012. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Two Nova Scotia brothers charged with murder have pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in the death of a 20-year-old woman three years ago.

Dustan Joseph Preeper, 26, and his brother Joshua Michael Preeper, 22, were charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of Melissa Dawn Peacock.

On Wednesday, Dustan Preeper pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Peacock’s death. Joshua Preeper pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Dustan Preeper also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Ben Hare.

He will serve the sentences concurrently and must serve 25 years before he is eligible for parole. The Crown recommended a sentence of 25 years for Dustan Preeper's guilty plea in the Peacock murder and 12 years for Hare's murder.

The Crown recommended that Joshua Preeper serve 12 years before he's eligible for parole for his role in Peacock's murder.

Justice James Chipman accepted those recommendations.

When asked to comment, Dustan Preeper gave the court the finger and told everyone to "Go fuck yourselves." As people in court gasped, he said, "What are you going to do? Give me another 25 years?"

Chipman said he would take Dustan Preeper's comments into account when deciding on a sentence.

Josh Preeper had no comment.

Families react to pleas

The families of both Peacock and Hare were in court Wednesday. Peacock's mother, Ruth Slauenwhite​, read her victim impact statement.

"I have lost the opportunity to say goodbye to Melissa," she said.

Peacock's father said his daughter's death has torn the family apart. He said he and his wife may part ways because of it.

In her statement, Peacock's nine-year-old sister said, "I fear I will end up like Melissa."

Her 10-year-old brother told the court Peacock was a sister no one can replace. 

As Hare's aunt read her victim impact statement, one woman cried out in court.

"He was a good man," Kim Prior said of her nephew.

Peacock's remains found 8 months later

Peacock left her home in Dartmouth at about 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2011. Her mother said Peacock kissed her, said she loved her, and that she wouldn't be gone long.

Peacock later began sending puzzling text messages, saying she would spend the night in the country, though she didn't want to be there.

Police traced her cellphone, and found she had been in a car headed north on Highway 354 after midnight.

Peacock’s remains were found at a property in Colchester County July 3, 2012.

As the court heard the grisly details of Peacock's death, her family sat with their heads bowed.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Peacock and Dustan Preeper were friends on Facebook, but apparently did not know each other.

Cellphone records showed Dustan Preeper contacted Peacock at 5:51 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2011. The two exchanged 101 text messages over the next four hours. Preeper introduced himself to Peacock and said they should meet up. They agreed to meet at a gas station. His brother Joshua was also in the car. 

The three drove to a party in a Hants County house late Nov. 7, 2011, or early Nov. 8, 2011. Peacock was intoxicated and not feeling well. At about 4 a.m., the three got back in the car, with Peacock believing they were heading home.

Dustan Preeper drove them to an isolated area and all got out of the car. Dustan Preeper then stabbed Peacock in the chest. Joshua dragged her into the woods. She was breathing heavily when Dustan poured gas on her and Joshua set her on fire. 

The court heard the brothers then left the scene. They returned later, retrieved her body and buried her in Colchester County.

Dustan Preeper later told an undercover police operator that he decided to kill Peacock because he thought she had tried to steal his vehicle. 

Hare found dead in 2010

Hare, 26, was found dead outside a Truro apartment July 8, 2010, after a brawl at a party.

According to the agreed statement of facts in the Hare case, Hare first attacked Dustan Preeper. The court heard Dustan Preeper then repeatedly hit Hare with a baseball bat.

Charges against Preeper in Hare's death were withdrawn but then re-laid later.

Barbara Elizabeth Marshall, 26, was also charged with second-degree murder in Hare's death. That charge has now been dropped.