Saskatchewan

Duran Redwood receives life sentence for murdering Celeste Yawney

Duran Redwood has been sentenced to life in prison for beating his girlfriend to death. He will not be eligible for parole for 15 years. 

Duran Redwood is not eligible for parole for 15 years; jury convicted him of 2nd-degree murder

Celeste Yawney was 33 when she was beat to death in her own home by her romantic partner. (Submitted by Laurel Gardiner)

Regina's Celeste Yawney was beaten to death by her romantic partner Duran Redwood in May 2015.

On Monday, nearly four years after he took her life, Redwood was sentenced to life in prison, with no eligibility for parole for 15 years.

"It's not really what we would call closure," Celeste's mother Carla Yawney said outside the courthouse.

"Our hope is, as I've said before, is that people will educate themselves to be able to watch for signs of those who are abused."

A jury found Redwood guilty of second-degree murder at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench last month.

The Crown and defence disagreed on the length of time Redwood should spend in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Crown prosecutor Constance Hottinger asked Justice Guy Chicoine for 20 years before eligibility because of Redwood's criminal history of abusing domestic partners, including Yawney, and breaching court orders.

Duran Redwood was convicted of beating his 33-year-old girlfriend to death. A jury found him guilty of second-degree murder last month. (CBC)
Defence lawyer Kevin Hill asked for 10, citing Redwood's history. Hill told the court that Redwood was nurtured in an atmosphere of drugs, booze and domestic violence.

Chicoine met them in the middle and determined Redwood will have to spend 15 years behind bars before any possibility of parole.

Victim impact statements read

Carla clutched her written victim's statement, shaking as she told the court she's still haunted by the fact that her daughter tried to call her in the hours before she was murdered.

She didn't hear the phone ring. That morning she went to pick Yawney up for Sunday brunch only to see yellow police tape.

Carla described her children's traumatization as they went through Yawney's blood-covered and damaged home, in search of valuables and a funeral outfit for their late sister. 

She looked at Redwood in the prisoner's box.

"I don't feel it is my responsibility to forgive him, but I can forgive myself," she said, sobbing.

"We knew Celeste was in trouble. We tried to help her but we were unsuccessful," she said, adding Yawney thought she could "escape."

Carla said their family is trying to choose happiness because that's what Yawney lived by.

Celeste Yawney was 33 when she was slain in her own home. Her close knit family says they knew she was in trouble but were unable to help her when it came to her relationship with Redwood. (Submitted)

"We will not get over the loss of Celeste. We're learning to live with it."

Yawney's sister Janine Pereira wept as she spoke of how deeply people miss Yawney, a bubbly mother of two boys and a caring friend.

Pereira described Yawney as kind and helpful, the type of person who would offer someone the shirt off her back.

"She deserves to be talked about and never forgotten."

Redwood had assaulted Yawney before

The Crown asked Chicoine to consider the longer parole eligibility period because of Redwood's past behaviour.

He was charged with assault causing bodily harm because he beat Yawney in July 2014.

Police records indicate Redwood punched Yawney repeatedly in the face, bit her arms and pulled out her hair. The details were similar to the fatal beating that would happen less than a year later.

Redwood pleaded guilty in January 2015 and was given an 18-month conditional jail sentence that barred him from drinking or living with Yawney.

He was in breach of these conditions — that were imposed because he assaulted her — when he killed her.

"One cannot imagine a more aggravating set of factors," Hottinger said.

His criminal record also shows he previously assaulted two of his ex-girlfriends, as well as his mom and a police officer.

It also shows he had at least six convictions for breaches of court orders, which Hottinger suggested showed he was uncooperative with rehabilitation attempts.

Redwood apologizes to family

Redwood addressed Yawney's family in court.

"I know I've caused you a lot of pain and I can't say sorry enough times to express the remorse I feel," he said.

"I'll have to live with this for the rest of my life knowing that a kind, loving person is gone and an amazing family like you guys — your lives are changed forever because of me."

Defence detailed Redwood's turbulent past

Hill asked the judge to consider 10 years before parole eligibility after detailing Redwood's "painful history."

Court heard Redwood, 30, grew up in a dysfunctional and unstable home.

Hill brought up the impacts of colonialism and the cycles of violence perpetuated since then.

A friend described Redwood's situation as "hurt people hurting people" and Hill repeated that sentiment to the court.

He asked the judge to consider the sociological factors in Redwood's life as a person's upbringing is part of their circumstances.

"There is no question that Mr. Redwood's upbringing has affected his ability to relate to his domestic partners," Chicoine acknowledged in his decision.

Hill spoke outside the courthouse after the sentencing hearing was over and said the defence would be filing an appeal.

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