Surprise guilty plea in murder case

Nathan Desharnais’ trial came to an abrupt end when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder

A Red Deer man unexpectedly pleaded guilty to second-degree murder partway through his trial on Tuesday.

Nathan Desharnais was on trial for the death of Talia Meguinis, who was last seen on Feb. 20, 2012 in Red Deer.

Her body, which had been left in a dumpster, was found at a Red Deer recycling facility on Feb. 22, 2012. Desharnais was charged seven months later after an RCMP Mr. Big sting operation.

Desharnais, who has a shaved head and bushy beard, showed little emotion when the charge was read to him and he replied “guilty” when asked how he pleaded.

The surprise guilty plea came after Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eldon Simpson ruled in the morning that cellphone photos recovered from Desharnais’ cellphone could be used as evidence against him.

The photos were found on a cellphone that Desharnais was carrying when he was arrested in June 2012 for an unrelated aggravated sexual assault, for which he was later convicted.

Police couldn’t view the photos at the time because the phone was locked. But a year later, technology had improved and the cellphone was cracked revealing photos of a woman believed to be murder victim Meguinis, 27-year-old mother of three.

Defence lawyer Patty MacNaughton unsuccesfully argued in court on Monday that the cellphone photos are inadmissable as evidence because her client’s rights were breached when they were retrieved without a warrant.

Simpson said while police should have gotten a search warrant to crack the phone in June 2013 there was no evidence police had intentionally breached Desharnais’ rights.

Simpson also noted the law regarding searching cellphones was in “flux” at the time of Desharnais’ arrest. At the time, police routinely checked cellphone contents under the grounds it was “incidental” to an arrest.

Following the judge’s decision in the morning, MacNaughton asked for a lengthy break to speak with her client. The guilty plea came when court reconvened in the afternoon.

Crown prosecutor Bruce Ritter said a charge of interfering with human remains will be withdrawn. A date for sentencing is expected to be set on Wednesday.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

BREAKING: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Canada, U.S. lead call for enforcement of sanctions against North Korea

VANCOUVER — Canada and the U.S. led calls Tuesday for the global… Continue reading

Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada

WASHINGTON — When the White House released the results of a test… Continue reading

Food industry fails to meet most voluntary sodium reduction targets: Health Canada

TORONTO — Voluntary sodium targets for the food industry have failed to… Continue reading

Feds long way from restarting or scraping missing, murdered women inquiry: PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is a long… Continue reading

WATCH: Rebels play floor hockey with Annie L. Gaetz students

The Rebels may be on a losing streak but they were definitely… Continue reading

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye welcome baby girl

NEW YORK — It’s a girl for Kim Kardashian West and her… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month