Manslaughter for one accused, and second-degree murder convictions for two involved.
A man and woman have been sentenced for their roles in the killing of a young mother of three from Athabasca, Alta.
In April 2019, 25-year-old Nature Duperron was robbed and kidnapped by a group of people in Edmonton. Pinned to the floor of a truck, she was driven hundreds of kilometres west of the city. She was forcibly injected with fentanyl before being left to die outside of Hinton, Alta.
“These were brutal and senseless crimes amounting to a prolonged torture of an innocent victim who thought herself to be with friends,” Justice Robert Graesser said in Edmonton Court of King’s Bench on Monday.
It was the final day of sentencing for Buddy Underwood and Tyra Muskego.
Both were charged with first-degree murder but Graesser found that level of planning had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that the two had different degrees of culpability.
Nearly a year ago, Graesser convicted Underwood of second-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery. He sentenced him Monday to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 17 years.
Muskego, convicted of manslaughter, kidnapping and robbery, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
Two other accused, Kala Bajusz and Grayson Eashappie, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.
The judge called Underwood the “directing mind” of the killing and said he is “still an unremorseful danger to society.”
Graesser said if not for the conscience of another person in the vehicle that night, Duperron would have been another story of a missing and murdered Indigenous woman.
“None of her assailants had any second thoughts or regrets.”
In delivering the sentences, Graesser said he had to consider that the accused were Indigenous, with Gladue factors due to the impact of residential schools on their upbringing. A landmark 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, R. vs. Gladue said judges must consider an Indigenous offender’s background and systemic factors in making sentencing decisions.
Graesser also pointed out that Duperron was a vulnerable victim from the Bigstone Cree Nation.
He noted the tragedy that Muskego’s young child, who was in court on Monday, would grow up without her mother, thus “ensuring the intergenerational trauma … [is] passed down to another generation.”
Waiting for this answer
Graesser said he was impressed by the generosity of Duperron’s mother in expressing forgiveness in her victim impact statement.
Outside the courthouse following the sentencing, Cheryl Uchytil said she felt relieved.
“It’s been almost 4½ years I’ve been waiting for this answer,” Uchytil said.
“I feel peace knowing that they’re going to serve time. And I don’t have anger towards them. I did at first for a long time.
“But at the same time, that anger makes you sick. And so I knew I had to release it … for when her kids start asking questions, we’re going to be more prepared for that time.”
Duperron’s three young boys miss her every day, Uchytil said.
She described her daughter as a sweet and lovable woman who always looked for the good in a person.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Cook is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. He has covered stories on a wide range of topics with a focus on policy, politics, post-secondary education and labour. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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