ATHABASCA — Two of the four people charged in the 2019 kidnapping and murder of Nature Duperron, a woman from Calling Lake, have pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
Duperron, a mother of three, went missing in April 2019 and was found where she was left by her killers in a forested area near Hinton a few days later, after the driver of the vehicle which transported her there confessed his part in her death to police.
On Sept. 12 in Court of King's Bench in Edmonton, Justice John Little accepted a plea agreement with defendants Grayson Eashappie and Kala Bajusz that saw each plead guilty to second degree murder, reduced from first degree murder, and the charges of kidnapping and theft were withdrawn.
Duperron’s parents listened from the gallery as the Crown read in the facts, describing in detail how their daughter was tortured and finally left for dead. Wearing a ribbon skirt, her mother, Cheryl, at times sat straight watching the proceedings and other times folded over with her head down.
In an agreed statement of facts, the Crown told Justice Little a cousin to co-accused Buddy Underwood, Bret Desjarlais, had come to Edmonton, April 6, 2019, to try and sell a small quantity of drugs. He met up with Underwood and remained there for the night with several other people he didn’t know including Eashappie, Bajusz, and co-accused Tyra Muskego. In the morning, he offered to get breakfast for everyone and left with Eashappie in his truck.
Duperron, who occasionally used drugs but was currently sober, contacted Eashappie that morning, April 7, asking for a ride to deliver drugs to a few locations so Desjarlais and Eashappie picked her up. They dropped the food off at Underwood’s place and waited for Eashappie to come back to the truck. Duperron was anxious to get the drugs delivered, court heard, so they left. A brief time later Underwood called and demanded they come back to the residence where he Eashappie, Muskego, and Bajusz all got in with Desjarlais and Duperron.
It was at this point, the Crown told Justice Little, things turned bad.
Desjarlais was directed to a back alley under the pretense Muskego and Bajusz wanted to see a friend, but instead they attacked Duperron, stealing her money and drugs. She was able to get away, but Underwood threatened Desjarlais to drive around and find her as he was sure she had more drugs and money, but also, that she would report the theft to the drug dealers she was working for, and Underwood was concerned about retaliation.
They located her in the foyer of a bank and forced her back to the truck, all of which was caught on CCTV.
Once they had her in the truck, Bajusz and Muskego handcuffed her with a pair they had found in Duperron’s bag and started hitting, punching, and finally kicking her after she ended up on the floorboard in the back seat of Desjarlais’s truck.
Underwood turned the radio up to muffle the screams and pleas for her life as they drove around Edmonton before deciding to head to Hinton.
“This beating and driving went on for a while until Underwood instructed Desjarlais to drive out of the city,” the Crown said.
RCMP were later able to verify their movements when they stopped at gas stations and fast-food outlets on the trip to and from Hinton.
As they drove toward where they would eventually leave her, they continued to beat Duperron and inject her with fentanyl and methamphetamines.
Once they arrived in the forested area, Underwood demanded Desjarlais inject her with drugs, but he secretly broke the tip off the needle so he wouldn’t have to.
Underwood then handed Eashappie a shotgun and told him to shoot Duperron. He held it to her head and pulled the trigger, but the safety was on. Underwood took the safety off and Eashappie did it again, but nothing happened.
They decided to inject her with a large quantity of meth and fentanyl and then drove away.
“Duperron was left handcuffed, bruised, heavily drugged, to die in the woods,” the Crown told Justice Little.
The group then went to Underwood’s aunt’s house in Hinton before returning to Edmonton, tossing the shotgun away near Edson.
At one point Muskego suspected Desjarlais of texting someone about the murder and confiscated his phone.
When they returned to Edmonton, they went to the home of Angel O’Hara who gave them cleaning supplies to try and get rid of any physical evidence in the truck.
Desjarlais was eventually given back his phone and returned to his home in Evansburg where he started doing drugs heavily which resulted in an accident at work a few days later. While he was talking to his employer about the accident, he confessed he’d witnessed a murder the week before and it was his employer who contacted RCMP.
Desjarlais was granted immunity as he led RCMP to Duperron’s body and gave them details of the harrowing last hours of her life which led to the charges against the other four.
Justice Little accepted the agreed statement of facts and the two guilty pleas from Eashappie and Bajusz for second degree murder and their sentencing will take place at a future date.
Immediately following the summary disposition, the trial of Underwood and Muskego started under Justice Robert Graesser. Underwood and Muskego chose trial by judge alone and pleaded not guilty to the same statement of fact, which was read out to Justice Graesser as was presented to Justice Little.
The trial of Underwood and Muskego is scheduled to last 19 days, but with Eashappie and Bajusz, pleading guilty the Crown suspected it may not take the full time.