Saskatchewan

Celeste Yawney's mother was 'fearful and concerned' for daughter's safety, murder trial hears

A Regina woman told a court on Wednesday that she feared for her daughter, Celeste Yawney, because of Celeste's relationship with the man now accused of killing her.

Duran Redwood is charged with 2nd-degree murder in Yawney's 2015 death

Celeste Yawney was 33 when she was killed in her own home. (Submitted by Laurel Gardiner)

A Regina woman told a court on Wednesday that she feared for her daughter, Celeste Yawney, because of Celeste's relationship with the man now accused of killing her.

Carla Yawney, Celeste's mother, was the Crown's first witness at the second-degree murder trial for Duran Redwood, who is accused in Celeste's 2015 death.

Wednesday was the first day of testimony at Redwood's judge and jury trial at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench.

Redwood, 30, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Celeste Yawney, 33, was found dead in her home on Regina's Ingersoll Crescent on May 24, 2015. 

The Crown has alleged that Redwood beat Celeste to death after a night of escalating tension — and that he meant to kill her. 

Crown prosecutor Loreley Berra read an admission of facts into the record on Wednesday that indicated Redwood does not dispute that his actions led to Yawney's injuries, and ultimately her death.

The Crown rejected Redwood's offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Carla Yawney appeared emotional during testimony Wednesday as she described her daughter as kind and beautiful. She called her a "selfie queen," prompting chuckles through sobs from supporters in the courtroom.

"We miss her," Yawney told the court.

Became evasive, isolated: mother

Celeste was a mother to two and had once worked at a home for abused women, her mother said. 

However, she had a history of struggling with alcohol and "battled that more after her dad died" in May 2014, Yawney testified.

She said that Redwood had entered Celeste's life just prior to her father's death. He accompanied Celeste to the funeral, Yawney said, adding it was around that time when Celeste became evasive and isolated, and at times wasn't honest.

She said she felt Celeste would purposefully keep her out of her home. 

"I was fearful and concerned," she testified. "She seemed to be more protective of Duran."

Celeste Yawney's mother, Carla Yawney, testified in court on Wednesday. She was the first Crown witness at the trial for Duran Redwood, who is charged with second-degree murder in connection with Celeste's death. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Yawney said she saw Celeste on May 23, 2015, and described her as distraught and withdrawn.

"That was the last time I saw her," she said, pausing before adding, "Alive." 

Yawney said she missed a call from Celeste around 1:00 or 1:30 a.m. on May 24, 2015. 

"I still feel bad to this day that I didn't hear the phone ring," she said, adding she tried to call Celeste in the morning to no avail.

Yawney said she went to Celeste's home after church on May 24 — a Sunday — and saw police tape.

Home 'had been trashed'

Later in her testimony, she described the scene inside the home that day.

"It had been trashed," she said, adding she saw blood and holes in the wall.

"To me, it looked like her head went through the wall." 

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Kevin Hill asked if Redwood and Celeste both had an alcohol problem. 

Yawney said she didn't know what Redwood's problems were. Hill asked if she had a negative perception of their relationship.

"We were concerned for her. We were not rude to him," she said.

Yawney said they had a plan to fix up Celeste's home and sell it so she could move away from the city.

During re-examination, the Crown asked if Redwood was part of the equation in the decision to try to relocate Celeste.

"Yes," Yawney replied.

'You left her there?'

Court then heard individual testimony from Claudette Kennedy, 55, and her daughters Amber Kennedy and Ashly Larose.

They said Redwood showed up at their home on the morning of May 24, 2015.

Claudette was on the couch when she heard a knock on the door. She testified that at first she didn't answer, but the person was persistent. She said she recognized Redwood and he asked for her daughter, Larose, who was his ex-girlfriend. 

Redwood and Larose have three children together. 

"What the F do you want," Claudette testified she said, noting Redwood appeared to be coming off a night of partying. She testified that he said "he found his girlfriend dead."

Claudette testified that she yelled for her daughter in a panic.

Her daughter, Amber, was emotional as she testified about quesitoning Redwood: "You left her there? What do you mean you killed your girlfriend?"

She said Redwood repeated that there was no other explanation and he didn't remember what had happened. 

She testified that it seemed he had been drinking the night before

During cross examination, defence lawyer Hill noted Amber had told police that Redwood had been slurring his words and crying, and that he mentioned an attempt to revive Yawney after finding her in the bathtub. 

All three women testified that Redwood had started to walk away, so they got in the car and drove him to the police station.

They said he was punching his face during the drive.

Larose said Redwood appeared confused, and under cross examination Hill pointed out that she had told police Redwood had been crying and saying sorry that morning.

Loreley Berra is co-prosecuting the case with Constance Hottinger. Justice Guy Chicoine said the jury trial is expected to last four weeks. The trial continues Thursday. 

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