Two Winnipeg men plead guilty to murdering pregnant woman in remote area

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WINNIPEG - A pregnant Winnipeg woman was still breathing and struggling to survive when three young men stuck her battered body in a deep snowbank and covered her with rocks.
"They buried her alive," Crown attorney Mark Kantor told court Friday as he revealed new details about the February 2007 killing of Roxanne Fernando and her unborn baby.
Nathanael Plourde and Jose Toruno were both handed life sentences for a killing described as one of the worst in the city's history.
Fernando, 24, was lured to the outskirts of Winnipeg on the premise of a Valentine's Day date, then beaten with a wrench, stuffed in a car trunk, bludgeoned with a broken hockey stick and hidden on the outskirts of the city.
An autopsy revealed she suffered extensive head trauma and died of massive blood loss.
"This murder was coldly conceived and deliberately executed," Queen's Bench Justice Glenn Joyal said.
Plourde, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and will not be eligible for parole for 25 years. Toruno, 21, admitted second-degree murder and must serve at least 15 years until he can apply for release.
A 17-year-old co-accused pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last year and was given the maximum youth sentence of six years in prison and four years probation.
Fernando was targeted for death only weeks after discovering she was pregnant with Plourde's child, the judge was told. Kantor said Fernando wanted to have a long-term relationship with Plourde, who didn't return her feelings and hatched a plot to kill her when she refused to leave him alone.
Plourde set up a date on Feb. 15. and picked up Fernando, who expected to exchange gifts with him. She brought a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a stuffed teddy bear.
She got into Plourde's vehicle - unaware that the youth was hiding under a blanket in the back seat. The pair had earlier bought supplies which included leather gloves and rolls of packing tape.
Fernando was driven to Little Mountain Park on the northwestern edge of the city after being told a "surprise" was waiting there for her.
The youth sprang out from under the blanket and, together with Plourde, began attacking Fernando at the isolated park. Fernando was hit with a wrench up to 20 times, bound with tape and wrapped in a blanket before being stuffed in the trunk of the car. The attackers thought she was dead.
"But after driving off, they heard her moaning and moving," Kantor said Friday.
Panic set in and a third accused - Toruno - was picked up and paid $120 to assist in Fernando's killing. The money had been taken out of Fernando's purse by the youth as she lay in the trunk.
Fernando was taken to a remote area in northwest Winnipeg and repeatedly beaten by Toruno with a broken hockey stick. Her body was then placed in a snow-filled ditch.
"She was subjected to a prolonged, horrific suffering. (The killer's) actions were heinous and cold-blooded. They had a callous disregard for human life," Kantor said.
Plourde was in tears Friday as he spoke to Fernando's family.
"I'm sorry to you, Roxanne's mother and father, who lost a daughter. I'm sorry to you, Roxanne's siblings, who lost a sister. I regret everything I did and take full responsibility for my actions," he said.
Toruno's father is a local minister who wrote a letter read aloud by defence lawyer Greg Brodsky. The man said he is praying for his son, Fernando and her family.
"I always teach my children to respect others, as the Bible instructs. Jose is not a bad kid. He made a mistake. Everybody does," he said.
"I've been waiting a long time for this day to come so I can apologize to you," Toruno said Friday. "I can't imagine how you feel. I hope that one day you take the time to forgive me. These words are coming from my heart. God bless you."
Joyal questioned the sincerity of the two killers, noting they left the body and then went to McDonald's for a bite to eat, stopped at Safeway for some cleaning supplies for the vehicle and then text-messaged one of Fernando's friends - using her cellphone - indicating all was well.
Toruno even took the chocolates and stuffed animal that Fernando had brought for Plourde and gave them to his girlfriend.

Organizations: Queen's, McDonald's, Safeway

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Little Mountain Park

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