Sentences were handed down to two people of the four people who took part in the “brutal and senseless” kidnapping and torture that lead to the death of Nature Duperron.
On Sept. 11, Justice Robert Graesser sentenced Buddy Underwood and Tyra Muskego at the Court of King’s Bench in Edmonton.
Underwood was sentenced to a life in prison for second degree murder with no chance of parole for 17 years after being found guilty at trial in October 2022. Muskego was sentenced to 12 years in prison for manslaughter, kidnapping, and robbery in the death of the 25-year-old Bigstone Cree Nation woman.
Grayson Eashappie and Kala Bajusz both accepted plea deals for pleading guilty in September 2022. Each received life sentences with no chance of parole for 15 years for second degree murder.
Graesser called Underwood the leader of a group of four people who robbed, kidnapped, beat, and forcibly injected fentanyl and left the 25-year-old mother of three for dead in a forested area outside of Hinton on April 7, 2019, as reported by Town and Country.
Her body was found on April 23, 2019 after Bret Desjarlais gave details to RCMP about Duperron’s death.
Desjarlais was granted immunity for the crimes, as reported by Town and Country Today, as his confession led to the four others being charged, and Duperron’s body being found.
Graesser summarized the events that led up to the death of Duperron during the sentencing, stating the journey started out as a drug delivery and turned into the group of four attempting to rob Duperron.
The group found nothing of significance on Duperron and let her go but changed their mind shortly after.
They found Duperron in a bank foyer and dragged her back to the truck, where they abused and forcefully searched her again as they drove around Edmonton, said Graesser.
At one point, Graesser said Underwood was heard saying, “We have to get rid of her. She knows too much.”
Underwood then instructed Desjarlais to drive to Hinton.
Duperron was pinned to the floor of the truck, was beaten, and injected with fentanyl for the three to four hours it took to reach the destination where they would attempt to shoot her and ultimately inject her with more drugs and leave her handcuffed to die.
Gladue reports were obtained for both Underwood and Muskego, and Graesser said both had backgrounds that been affected by the policy and shameful practices of the government.
Muskego had grandparents that attended residential schools and parents who had drug and alcohol addictions. At the age of 14 she was attacked by her mother and went to live with an aunt.
Muskego also started using drugs and alcohol. She quit school when she was in grade 11 and she has no work experience. She did, however, become sober once she became pregnant.
Graesser, speaking of Underwood, said it would be hard to find anyone more impacted by the wrongs done to Indigenous people. Both of Underwood's grandparents attended residential schools, as per government policy at the time, and his parents’ suffered alcohol and drug addictions.
His parents separated when he was young, and he lived with his mother and then various caretakers throughout his youth, one of who sexually assaulted him, Graesser said.
At the age of 14 he was out on his own, rejected by his mother. He left school and starting using drugs, Graesser said, noting he eventually reconnected with his father, who schooled him in trafficking drugs until his death.
Graesser said in his sentencing decision he had to take into account the Gladue reports, the fact that the victim, Duperron, was an Indigenous woman and was in a more vulnerable position, and the impact the crimes would have on the Indigenous community at large.
Mitigating factors for Muskego included her age, 21, at the time of the kidnapping, her minor criminal record, the remorse she showed at the hearing — but that was of little weight as it took four years for her to show any remorse, the Gladue report, and bail compliancy.
Aggravating factors included the nature of the crime in its brutality and senselessness. Graesser said what she did was shocking. It was a planned attack on a defenceless victim and a breach of trust as Duperron thought she was with friends, and Muskego left Duperron to die even though there was a possibility for her to have a change of heart.
Graesser categorized the role Muskego played in the death of Duperron as at the high end of manslaughter and the high end of moral culpability. The events took three to four hours and were not impulsive.
The brutality of the crimes, the duration, and the Indigenous background of the victim largely overwhelm the mitigating factors, said Graesser.
Muskego cried as Graesser handed down her sentence.
Graesser called it a tragedy, stating Muskego’s child would also lose her mother and the trauma would again be passed down.
There were many aggravating factors for Underwood’s sentence. Grasser said his actions were a hairbreadth short of planned deliberate murder. It was clearly deliberate, but it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Duperron’s death was planned.
Graesser listed Underwood's previous criminal record, which included a firearm ban as an aggravating factor, as well as the prolonged and brutal torture of an Indigenous woman, who thought she was among friends, he acted as the leader of the group, the indignity Duperron’s body suffered, and Underwood’s lack of remorse.
The mitigating factors included his age of 24 at the time of the crime, the Gladue report and the clear impacts government policy had on his upbringing.
Underwood appeared unmoved when Graesser handed him his sentence and declined final comments.
Graesser said he was hugely impressed by the nature of forgiveness Cheryl Uchytil, Duperron’s mother, had expressed when she read her impact statement calling it a gift to Muskego and Underwood, but also a gift to the victims themselves.
Duperron had her own struggles with depression, drugs, and alcohol, but she was very much loved.
“I hope some peace will be found, but there will be no further answers…,” said Graesser.