New Regina playground honours 'kid at heart' Celeste Yawney, homicide victim

A new Regina playground has been built in the memory of Celeste Yawney, a woman killed in her own home in 2015.

Trial was set to begin Monday; adjourned after accused dismissed lawyer

Celeste Yawney was 33 when she was killed in her own home. Police charged her ex-boyfriend with second-degree murder in connection with the death.

Memories of a mother-of-two linger on the site of a new playground in Regina.

The structure is bright and colourful, like the woman it's meant to honour. Celeste Yawney was 33 when she was slain in her own home in 2015.

Her on again, off again boyfriend Duran Redwood was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the homicide.

In the final years of her life, Yawney worked with the YWCA Isabel Johnson Shelter and counselled women facing, and trying to flee, domestic abuse.

When Yawney's family members think of her, they remember a shining, spontaneous and loving woman.

Celeste Yawney's brother-in-law Dan Gardiner said there's something special about a playground that adults often forget, in which the world stops and personal issues fade away for those moments of play. (Submitted)

Dan Gardiner, Yawney's brother-in-law, said she was "somebody that really was a kid at heart — always."

He's the president of Exerplay, a playground building company that helped make the project happen.

The secured playground is part of Regina's Raising Hope Facility, which offers housing and support for women with children who are struggling with addictions. The first chunk of money was collected in a fundraiser for Yawney, and the rest of the resources were donated by Gardiner.

He said family and friends could feel Yawney's spirit on site.

"She lived at the parks and playgrounds with her kids, but she also gave a lot to the community of Regina with helping others out that had less than she had."

Gardiner and his wife, Yawney's sister Laurel, are in the process of adopting Yawney's son Noah.

"He was part of picking the [playground] pieces in honour of his mom," Gardiner said. "He left Regina with this terrible, terrible thing, and having this light back in honour of knowing it's going to bring joy to other people is really exciting."

Yawney would have been proud of the project, but likely wouldn't have wanted a playground in her name, he said.

"Joking, she would have said you should have made it bigger, but I think she would have said nothing but thank you. Celeste was just a humble person."

Pictured are the Yawney sisters: Celeste, left, Laurel, Janine and Yvonne. (Submitted)

The fun-loving sister

It's been hard on their tight-knit family since Yawney's death, said her eldest sister, Janine Pereira.

"We miss her smile. It's hard to live with the images that I have in my mind of her last hours," she said.

Yawney was trusting and put others' needs before hers, Pereira said.

"The world's just missing someone that truly loved unconditionally."

I want justice, but the truth is nothing will ever be good enough because the fact is she gone, and nothing we can do or say will bring her back.- Yvonne Yawney, Celeste's sister

Yvonne Yawney said her sister was the type of person who could make you feel like they had been friends for a lifetime, regardless of how little time you spent together.

"She was not just an amazing sister, but she was a mom, too," she said.

The sisters all agree that Celeste was the favourite auntie, known for taking the kids to 711 before carting them off to a playground and spending quality time with each of them.

It's been hard to try and figure out how to live in a world without Celeste, Yvonne said.

"I want justice, but the truth is nothing will ever be good enough because the fact is she gone, and nothing we can do or say will bring her back."

Trial adjourned 

The jury trial of the accused was supposed to begin on Monday. However, Redwood's lawyer from the legal aid commission was dismissed on Friday afternoon, and the trial was adjourned.

Redwood will appear in court on Friday to seek new counsel.

Laurel Gardiner said the family was devastated by the news.

Police charged Redwood one day after Celeste's body was found in her home.

Court records previously obtained by CBC News show Redwood had a history of assaulting Celeste.

In January, he pleaded guilty to a charge of assault causing bodily harm in relation to incidents from the summer of 2014.