Murder trial on hold until 2017

The man charged with murder in the death of Talia Nelli Meguinis, 27, will go to trial five years after her body was found in a dumpster. The trial was supposed to start last week but was abruptly cancelled. New dates for early 2017 have now been set. Meguinis’s body was discovered in recycling collected from a dumpster in Red Deer’s Riverside Industrial Park on Feb. 22, 2012.

The man charged with murder in the death of Talia Nelli Meguinis, 27, will go to trial five years after her body was found in a dumpster.

The trial was supposed to start last week but was abruptly cancelled. New dates for early 2017 have now been set. Meguinis’s body was discovered in recycling collected from a dumpster in Red Deer’s Riverside Industrial Park on Feb. 22, 2012.

Nathan Michael Desharnais, 26, of Red Deer is charged with second-degree murder and interfering with human remains.

He has been represented since October 2012 by defence counsel Arnold Piragoff, who was appointed by the Alberta Legal Aid Society.

A four-week Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench judge and jury trial was scheduled to start on Sept. 8 with jury selection.

However, potential jurors were turned away at the door to the Red Deer courthouse on Sept. 8 and the trial dates were cancelled.

On Sept. 9, an Alberta Justice spokesperson said the trial dates were dropped because the defence wasn’t ready to proceed due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

Appearing in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday for a new arraignment before Justice Bill Hopkins of Edmonton, Piragoff and Crown prosecutor Maurice Collard said they have arranged new trial dates. The trial is now scheduled for Jan. 23 to Feb. 17, 2017.

Family members and friends of Meguinis sat in the back row of the court room wearing white T-shirts with the face of Meguinis on them.

One supporter who did not wish to be identified called the newest delay frustrating.

Desharnais appeared by closed circuit television from the Red Deer Remand Centre. He is serving time for a June 2012 aggravated sexual assault and choking with the intent of committing an indictable offence.

He was found guilty in June 2014 of those offences and sentenced by Justice Adam Germain to six years in custody. He had four years left to serve at the time of his conviction after spending the previous two years in pre-trial custody.

Meguinis, of Calgary, arrived in Red Deer on Feb. 17, 2012, and police believe she and Desharnais were casual acquaintances.

Desharnais was charged with Meguinis’s murder in September 2012, seven months after her body was found.

The charges were laid after an extensive investigation that involved the Red Deer RCMP General Investigative Section, Major Crimes Unit, Forensic Identification Unit, Victims Services and the Police Dog Service. The Calgary Major Crimes Unit, K Division Special Tactical Operations, Polygraph Sections in both Calgary and Edmonton, Calgary Police Service and the Tsuu T’ina Police also assisted.

A three-day preliminary hearing in Red Deer provincial court to test the strength of the Crown’s cause, determining if the matter could proceed to trial, was held on Dec. 16, 17 and 19, 2013. After that, a trial was ordered.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com