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2 murder confessions cannot be used as evidence in Kelowna trial: Justice

A Kelowna woman told police that she was forced to act after being sexually assaulted
Kelowna Courthouse (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that some readers may find upsetting.

A Kelowna woman who has been charged with murder told police that she was driven to kill because she was raped. However, that confession now cannot be used as evidence in the trial.

Gabriella Sears, (charged as Dereck Sears) who is transgender, faces two charges: one count of second-degree murder and one count of interfering with human remains.

READ MORE: Kelowna woman charged with murder says she acted after sexual assault

Over the past few weeks, Crown and defence counsel both submitted evidence as part of a voir dire. The proceedings were held in order to decide which information can be presented as evidence to the judge in the trial, specifically regarding two instances of alleged confessions made to police.

Sears was arrested on June 17, 2021, after the body of Darren Middleton was found by police at a home on Sycamore Road in Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood.

Crown described the crime scene as “horrifying.”

“The deceased was beaten and mutilated,” said Crown counsel. “The penis was partially severed and the testicles were missing.”

Police have said that Sears and Middleton knew each other prior to the incident.

Sears was later arrested and taken to the police station.

While in custody but before speaking to a lawyer, Sears told police at two points that she had killed Middleton and explained that the act was in retaliation to a sexual assault.

Her defence lawyer argues that these were involuntary and “spontaneous submissions” that were prompted by the violation of Sears’ rights by police.

Defence told the court that the police committed a Charter of Rights violation and did not provide Sears with access to legal aid in a timely manner after being arrested and that the spontaneous utterance should not be considered as evidence.

Crown counsel disagreed and argued that any delays experienced by Sears in accessing legal aid were reasonable given the circumstances.

Defence also argues that another Charter violation was made by RCMP in relation to the extensive strip search and sensitive exams that took place at the police station. Defence said that the strip was traumatic and insensitive considering a sexual assault is alleged to have taken place.

Crown concedes that the strip search was a breach of Sears’ rights, but said that it played no role in the confession.

Following the conclusion of the voir dire, Justice Ross ruled that the two instances of “spontaneous admission” are not admissible evidence at trial.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Monday, Oct. 16, in Kelowna.

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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