Nellie Big Crow, Chastity Rider and Yvette Meguinis (left to right) leave the Red Deer courthouse Thursday after a judge sentenced Talia Meguinis’ killer to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 13 years after being convicted of her murder. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Red Deer man sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 13 years

Talia Meguinis was killed in February 2012 and her body left in a dumpster

A Red Deer man who strangled a woman and left her body in a dumpster was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 13 years on Thursday.

Nathan Michael Desharnais, 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder two weeks ago, partway through his trial for killing Talia Meguinis, who was last seen partying with him early on Feb. 20, 2012.

Desharnais admitted he was high on six grams of cocaine and sleeping pills the night he killed Meguinis, a 27-year-old mother of three from Tsuu T’ina First Nation.

He choked Meguinis and left her body in a recycling dumpster near his apartment. The dumpster was picked up the next day and the body was discovered on a conveyor belt at a Red Deer recycling facility on Feb. 22.

Desharnais was arrested and charged with her murder in September 2012 after an elaborate RCMP Mr. Big operation during which he admitted to the killing.

In sentencing, Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eldon Simpson agreed with the punishment requested by Crown prosecutors Ed Ring and Bruce Ritter.

Defence lawyer Patty MacNaughton had asked for the minimum parole eligibility of 10 years.

For family members, who travelled from Tsuu T’ina to sit through court appearance after court appearance for more than four years, the sentence brought little satisfaction.

Sister Nellie Big Crow said she had expected the long-awaited sentence would bring closure

“Honestly I thought it would, but no, it hasn’t.”

Big Crow said family wanted to see Desharnais kept behind bars for at least 25 years.

“(Meguinis) was important. She had babies. She’ll never get to see them grow up. She’ll never be a grandmother.

“We’re thankful for what was given to him. But still it’s going to take a while for us to heal from 13 years instead of 25.”

Cousin Yvette Meguinis also found little solace on Thursday.

“It’s not going to bring her back.

“We were supposed to grow old together,” she said, her voice breaking.

Desharnais apologized to the more than dozen friends and family of Meguinis gathered in the court before he was sentenced.

He said there were no words to describe his remorse and was sorry he couldn’t offer an explanation why he strangled Meguinis after they were seen paryting together in his apartment.

“That’s probably the worst part about it is there is no explanation,” he said. “All I can say is I’m sorry.”

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