Saskatchewan

Jury hears Regina murder victim died from blunt force trauma to head and body

Celeste Yawney’s body had bruises all over the head, face, neck and sides, Saskatchewan’s chief forensic pathologist told jurors Thursday at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench.

Duran Redwood is accused of killing then-girlfriend Celeste Yawney in 2015

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

Jurors at Duran Redwood's second-degree murder trial were warned Thursday about the graphic nature of the images they would see.

They shared tablets with images of the body of Celeste Yawney — Redwood's then-girlfriend he's accused of killing — shortly after her death in May 2015. 

Dr. Shaun Ladham, Saskatchewan's Chief forensic pathologist, completed Yawney's autopsy. He was called upon by the co-Crown prosecutors to explain the photos he took and the autopsy report he submitted. 

Ladham told Regina's Court of Queen's Bench that Yawney's body had bruises all over her face, neck, chest and sides, some all merging together. 

A deep cut was found above Yawney's lip, surrounded by five others, some going into the mouth. Dr. Ladham said teeth can split the skin inside of the mouth following a strong blow to the area. He said that some of the cuts were up to 2 centimetres long.

Forensic pathologist says internal injuries were surprising

Yawney's sisters and others in the audience cried out as they heard details of her injuries for the first time.

Ladham said he didn't see breaks or much bleeding during the external examination.

He said that when he opened up her chest, he was surprised to discover she had two broken ribs and was bleeding inside her abdomen. He said she was also internally bleeding all along her scalp and had tears in her liver.

At this point, one of the jurors appeared to faint. There was a short recess, then court heard the individual was feeling better and the pathologist's testimony continued.

Ladham told the jury he believes Yawney's death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head and trunk.

"The trauma was so significant that it, in my opinion, was her cause of death," Ladham said. 

Ladham said Yawney was likely punched, kicked and stomped. He didn't rule out that weapons could have been used, but said he did not see a pattern of injuries to suggest a weapon.

When questioned by the Crown, Ladham said there were multiple blows—likely nine on her body alone—in order to cause her injuries. He said her injuries mean she was likely fixed up against something, like a wall or floor, at the time she sustained her injuries. 

Alcohol and medicine found in Yawney's system

Ladham said that according to the toxicology report done on Yawney, she had alcohol and Diphenhydramine, a substance found in over-the-counter cold medicine, were in her system, but he explained that there wasn't enough to cause her death.

Duran Redwood is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 33-year-old Celeste Yawney. (CBC)

In cross examination, defence lawyer Kevin Hill asked if alcohol could have played a role in Yawney's death. Ladham said alcohol in the brain may have reacted with the trauma to the brain, making her unable to breathe. He said the litre of blood pooling in her abdomen was likely a contributor to her death, though. 

Hill also asked if the bruises or injuries could have been caused by a fall into the bathtub where she was found. Ladham said a fall could have cause one of Yawney's external injuries, but said a round tub could not have cause her internal injuries.

Ladham was the final Crown witness.

The defence will begin to present its case Tuesday morning.

Neurologist testifies about Yawney's brain

The Crown called Dr. Christopher Robinson, a neurologist, as its final witness on Wednesday. He was called in by Ladham to examine Yawney's brain after her death. 

His results indicated her brain had swelling and that she had experienced a concussion or loss of consciousness for some period before her death. 

He also said she was alive for at least 2.5 to 3 hours after the injury to her brain occurred.

Robinson said he couldn't determine with 100 per cent certainty that trauma is what caused the injuries to the brain. However, he noted he had ruled out other potential causes.

Witness says Yawney's death followed cheating accusations

Also on Wednesday, the court heard from an acquaintance of Redwood, who said the accused — suspecting Yawney was with another man — went to her home and kicked in her door.

The 36-year-old witness, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, said Redwood told him he found Yawney alone in her house but still proceeded to assault her.  

He told the jury he went to police with information after Redwood confided in him several times about what had happened in 2017.

"He hit her a couple of times, knocked her out," the witness said, adding Redwood began to panic when she didn't wake up.

The witness said Redwood dragged Yawney's unconscious body to the bathtub and ran the water "figuring it would snap her out of it."

About the Author

Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.

With files from Kendall Latimer and Scott Larson

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