Court proceedings have concluded related to the convictions in the tragic case of 25-year-old Nature Duperron. The young mother of three was kidnapped in Edmonton, subjected to multiple assaults in a vehicle, forcibly administered fentanyl, and left to perish in the wilderness near Hinton on April 7, 2019. Recovered near Highway 16 on April 23, 2019, her body bore the sad testament of her final hours, handcuffed and abandoned.
Key players in her demise, Grayson Eashappie and Kala Bajusz, admitted their guilt in September, to second-degree murder. An ensuing October trial found Buddy Ray Underwood guilty of second-degree murder along with forcible confinement and kidnapping while Tyra Muskego was found guilty of manslaughter as well as robbery and forcible confinement.
Key points to note are both Underwood and Muskego were initially facing first-degree murder charges, yet Justice R.A. Graesser reached a conclusion on Oct. 21 where he stated that the Crown could not demonstrate “planning and deliberation,” the factors necessitating these convictions. The Judge further noted that, lacking concrete evidence tying Muskego to direct involvement in the killing itself, he found her complicit in both kidnapping and robbery of Duperron.
In the recent sentencing hearing for Underwood and Muskego, court documents highlighted each defendant’s personal background, shedding light on their troubled pasts and the impact on their current predicament. Underwood’s counsel offered in-depth insights into his client’s tormented upbringing, fraught with violence and sexual trauma. It further highlighted methamphetamine use within his family during his teen years.
Muskego, engaging with the court through a written statement delivered by her defence counsel, acknowledged her remorse and shame for her actions, expressing her enduring regret for not attempting to prevent the horrific incident. Apart from revealing her struggle with addiction and fear for her life during Duperron’s fatal ordeal, Muskego also shared that she is now a sober, young mother.
Tellingly, victim impact statements poignantly portrayed the incalculable pain experienced by Duperron’s family. Her sister, Summer Uchytil and mother, Cheryl Uchytil, drew a heart-wrenching picture of their distress and anguish over her loss as they grappled with their inconsolable grief.
The prosecution is seeking to enforce minimum eligibility for parole for Underwood after 22 years of the automatic life imprisonment that accompanies a second-degree murder conviction. In stark contrast, Underwood’s lawyer is pressing for a 15-year reduction before parole consideration. Likewise, while the prosecution seeks a 15-year sentence for Muskego, her counsel is advocating for a less severe punishment ranging from five to nine years.
The Surety of Justice lies in the hands of Justice Graesser, who is set to deliver his sentence for the pair on Sept. 11.