Saskatchewan

Duran Redwood found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in beating death of girlfriend

The jury in Duran Redwood's trial has found him guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal beating of his girlfriend Celeste Yawney.

Redwood convicted in the death of Celeste Yawney in 2015

Prosecutors said Redwood inflicted a vicious beating on Yawney and then dragged her to a bathtub, leaving her there to die. (Submitted by Laurel Gardiner)

Sobs and wails rang out in the Regina courtroom after a jury unanimously found Duran Redwood  guilty of second-degree murder on Friday night.

Intense emotion emanated from Redwood's supporters and softer cries were heard from those there for Celeste Yawney — Redwood's girlfriend who was beaten to death on May 24, 2015.

Jurors in the Queen's Bench trial convicted Redwood of killing Yawney, 33, after deliberating for more than six hours. They came back with a verdict around 9 p.m. CST.  

Yawney's mom Carla stood in between two of her daughters as supporters gathered behind her after court was adjourned. She asked people to educate themselves on the signs of domestic abuse. 

"Read about abuse, watch for the signs, do whatever you can to keep your loved ones safe. We weren't able to and it's something that we regret," she said. 

"It's got to stop. The laws need to be re-evaluated, something needs to be done."

She described her daughter as vivacious and called her a social person who loved life and her children. 

"She could look at any individual and see goodness in them. She was helpful and kind."

Janine Pereira said their family will always miss and mourn Yawney, who was her little sister. 

"But we are grateful that we can move on a little from this part of it — from the trial." 

Redwood will receive an automatic life sentence, however Justice Guy Chicoine did not sentence Redwood on Friday.

The length of time before Redwood will be eligible for parole is still up for debate and the defence is not yet clear on whether it will order a Gladue report for Redwood. Court was adjourned until next Thursday. 

Celeste Yawney's family reacted to the guilty verdict Friday night in the second-degree murder trial of Duran Redwood. Carla Yawney (centre) made a public plea for people to educate themselves about the signs of domestic abuse. (CBC News)

Defence asked for manslaughter

From the beginning of the trial on Jan. 14, the jury heard that Redwood did not dispute that his actions led to Yawney's death.

Defence lawyer Kevin Hill asked the jury to find Redwood guilty of manslaughter and argued he was too intoxicated to have been able to form the intent necessary for a murder conviction. 

Redwood testified in tears that he couldn't remember what happened the night Yawney was killed, but said he believed he was responsible for her death. 

The Crown called Redwood a liar with a "selective memory." Prosecutors said he inflicted a vicious beating on Yawney and then dragged her to a bathtub, leaving her there to die. 

Yawney died from blunt force trauma to her head and trunk, according to the forensic pathologist who conducted her autopsy. 

Duran Redwood, seen here on Jan. 14, 2019, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2015 death of 33-year-old Celeste Yawney. (CBC)

Instructions to the jury

Chicoine reminded jurors of Redwood's presumed innocence to the second-degree murder charge as he began his instructions prior to deliberations.

"The Crown bears the burden of proving guilt. It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

Failure to prove that guilt would require a manslaughter conviction, he said.

He told jurors about the five "essential ingredients" necessary for a second-degree murder conviction. However, Chicoine said deliberations would centre on the fifth element: intention.

He said there were two ways jurors could find Redwood guilty of second-degree murder.

Chicoine explained the first route was if jurors concluded Redwood had meant to cause Yawney's death.

"Intention is a state of mind," Chicoine told the jury. He reminded them that they cannot see into another person's mind, so they needed to use common sense and consider all of the evidence to make inferences.

The second way jurors could conclude second-degree murder is if they found Redwood had meant to cause Yawney bodily harm, while knowing the injuries were likely to cause death and that he was reckless in his actions.

"You do not all have to agree on the same way," he said.

Intoxication defence

Chicoine told the jury they must consider Redwood's level of intoxication for either verdict.

He said severe intoxication can interfere with a person's ability to foresee the natural consequences of their actions, which would mean a manslaughter conviction. 

He noted that a lack of memory doesn't mean Redwood didn't have the necessary intention to commit murder during the "punching, kicking and stomping of Celeste Yawney." 

Chicoine said there was no question that alcohol, and possibly drugs, played a role in Yawney's death. He told the jury there was evidence presented at the trial that Redwood had consumed alcohol that night — what wasn't clear was how much.

About the Author

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer began her journalism career in print as a newspaper reporter in Saskatoon and then as a feature writer in Bangkok. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in 2016. Latimer shares stories on web, radio and television. Contact her: kendall.latimer@cbc.ca