Community Reacts To Guilty Plea In Murders Of 2 Sask. Indigenous Women

Angela Gray, aunt of Richele Bear, told reporters that Clayton Eichler's second-degree guilty plea is the best outcome for the family. (CBC)

Angela Gray, aunt of Richele Bear, told reporters that Clayton Eichler’s second-degree guilty plea is the best outcome for the family. (CBC)

Clayton Eichler pleaded guilty on Monday to 2nd-degree murders of Kelly Goforth and Richele Bear

CBC News Posted: Sep 20, 2016

Clayton Eichler’s second-degree murder guilty plea came as a surprise to many anticipating a two-week trial that was to begin on Monday.

But for grieving family members and friends of Kelly Goforth and Richele Bear, it also brought relief.

Angela Gray was Bear’s aunt and helped raise her. She said the guilty plea was probably the best outcome for the families.

“Why he took so long to plea kind of bothers me, but I’m happy this is the way it turned out,” Gray said.

Kelly Goforth and Richele Bear sept 19 2016

Pictures of Kelly Goforth and Richele Bear were on the wall at the Gathering Place in Regina for a special press conference following the second-degree murder guilty plea of Clayton Eichler in their deaths. (CBC)

Gray addressed reporters at the Gathering Place, a community centre for events of significance to Indigenous communities.

As she told reporters what a fun-loving and outgoing person Bear was, she took several moments to breathe and work through tears.

Police said Bear was reported missing on Sept. 5, 2013, although the 23-year-old’s body has never been found.

Goforth’s body was discovered a couple weeks later on September 25 in a back alley of an industrial area east of downtown.

The Crown believes both women were strangled.

Clayton Bo Eichler enters court

Clayton Bo Eichler covered his face Monday as he was escorted into the Queen’s Bench courthouse in Regina. He has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the deaths of Richele Bear and Kelly Goforth.

Respect for the women

File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council has been involved with assisting the families of the two murdered women for the past three years.

Monday morning, it issued a press release explaining that Indigenous women are “forced to put themselves at greater risk for harm” due to poverty and vulnerabilities.

At yesterday’s gathering, Erica Beaudin of Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services said the community is glad the families will not have to go through a trial.

“We were very fearful that the defence was going to discuss aspects of their lives to make them less human and less worthy than other women,” Beaudin said.

Erica Beaudin eichler trial sept 17 2016

Erica Beaudin told reporters that not many families of murdered and missing Indigenous women get justice. (CBC)

Murder comes with an automatic sentence of life in prison, but with first-degree, the parole eligibility period is 25 years. With second-degree, the minimum period the offender must wait before becoming eligible for parole is 10 years.

Court heard both the Crown and defence are requesting that Eichler be kept behind bars for 20 years before becoming eligible.

Beaudin said the community is hopeful that Monday’s plea sets a precedent for more convictions in missing and murdered Indigenous women cases.

She brought up the cases of Pamela George and Tamra Keepness.

George’s two killers were granted parole within five years of being convicted of killing her. Keepness went missing in 2005 at the age of five and has never been found.

“As I sat there this morning and I looked at Clayton Eichler, I was able to witness a face. Most often times we don’t get a face to those who are gone missing,” Beaudin said.

Hope that Bear will be found

Because Bear’s body hasn’t been found, Gray said she still can’t feel closure.

Bear’s location is something many in the community are waiting to see if Eichler will reveal.

“He has within his power to assist this family, in the very least, attempting to bring their loved one with them, so that she could be properly buried in her home lands, where her ancestors come from,” Beaudin said.

The court will hear victim impact statements from the families of the deceased later today.