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Guilty plea in murder of elder
David Richard Harrison strangled Yvonne Desjarlais after inviting her to drink beer with him

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A man who strangled a 63-year-old woman to death after inviting her to drink beer with him pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in NWT Supreme Court on Monday.

NNSL photo/graphic

David Richard Harrison pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday in the 2012 death of Yvonne Desjarlais. Harrison will appear in court for sentencing Oct. 26. - NNSL file photo

A much younger David Richard Harrison, 30, killed Yvonne Desjarlais of Lutsel K'e sometime between the evening of Dec. 29 and early morning of Dec. 30, 2012 after encountering Harrison as she was heading toward the women's shelter on Franklin Avenue following a night of partying at the Northern Lites Motel.

Harrison, a large aboriginal man with short hair - also originally from Lutsel K'e - simply uttered "guilty" when the court clerk asked him for a plea. The offender, wearing an olive-coloured T-shirt and track pants while seated in the prisoner's dock, showed little emotion during the proceedings.

Crown prosecutor Marc Lecorre told the court the two knew each other from frequenting the Yellowknife day shelter.

Court heard Harrison was working odd jobs at the now defunct Le Stock Pot restaurant on 53 Street and had a key to the building where he invited Desjarlais in to drink beer. Lecorre said Desjarlais accepted the invitation and the two were the only occupants of the building at the time.

Lecorre told the court that when Desjarlais tried to leave, Harrison "physically restrained her" by putting his arms around her neck and strangling her.

"She died because of being strangled and she was then dragged out and left behind Le Stock Pot where she was discovered the next morning," Lecorre told the court.

Desjarlais was taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital after her body was discovered where she was pronounced dead. RCMP announced her death as a homicide on Jan. 3, 2013 but it was several months before DNA evidence was linked to Harrison.

Harrison, who has a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for assault causing bodily harm from 2006 and 2010, admitted to committing the crime on the day of his arrest, said Lecorre.

He was originally charged with first-degree murder before pleading guilty to the lesser charge. Second degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility of parole for a period of between 10 to 25 years.

Desjarlais was born Aug. 3, 1949, said Lecorre and was a mother of "several" children and grandchildren, said Lecorre.

He added that the Crown will be canvassing Desjarlais' family to obtain victim impact statements ahead of Harrison's sentencing.

A sentencing hearing will be held Oct. 26 at 10 a.m.

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