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Gruesome evidence introduced in Langley manslaughter hearing

Voir dire hearing will determine if evidence can be used in trial this spring
Langley City woman Naomi Onotera went missing in late August, 2021. Her husband Obnes Regis is charged with manslaughter in her death. (RCMP/Special to Black Press Media)

WARNING: This story contains graphic details about human remains

The judge overseeing the manslaughter trial of Obnes Regis heard gruesome testimony on Thursday about what allegedly happened to Langley resident Naomi Onotera in late August 2021.

Regis is in custody awaiting trial on charges of manslaughter and interfering with human remains. Justice Martha Devlin is currently overseeing the second of two voir dire hearings, during which evidence is presented. The judge will rule on which pieces of evidence will be allowed at the judge-only trial itself, expected later this spring.

Persons charged with a criminal offence are considered not guilty until the charges are proven in court.

Onotera, Regis’s wife, was last seen in late August. She made her last phone call and sent her final text message on the evening of Aug. 28.

Crown prosecutor Crichton Pike went through a number of admissions of evidence during the hearing on March 7, including a description of an incident in which undercover police officers interacted with Regis.

On Dec. 15, 2021 Regis showed them the spot in Fort Langley where he allegedly disposed of Onotera’s bones.

The suspect allegedly told the officers that he took a circuitous route by public transit and taxi on the evening of Aug. 29 and into the early morning hours of Aug. 30, travelling through Maple Ridge, out to the Lougheed SkyTrain station, back to Langley City, and finally out to Fort Langley in the early morning hours.

Pike noted that key points on the trip were caught by video surveillance footage admitted as evidence. Footage showed Regis wearing a black backpack.

He was last seen, by a cab driver who dropped him off in Fort Langley, heading towards the Fort Pub parking lot from Billy Brown Road.

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Pike said that Regis allegedly told the undercover officers that he had Onotera’s bones in his backpack. He had cut them into “finger-sized pieces,” and packed them into grocery bags inside the backpack.

Regis allegedly mimed throwing handfuls of the bones from a path by the river for the undercover officers. Some of the bones fell in the water, others fell in the bushes, Regis allegedly told them.

He also allegedly told the officers about being worried when earlier that month RCMP had searched the Langley City home he had shared with Onotera, when the dog approached a mitre saw on the lawn. He told the officers that he had also tried to use a handsaw to cut up the bones. He identified the saws and two knives as being used to dispose of Onotera.

The undercover officers took the items, all of which – along with the mitre saw seized by RCMP after the cadaver dog search – were forensically tested.

The knives and the handsaw tested positive for the presence of Onotera’s DNA, but it was not confirmed to be blood, said Pike.

The mitre saw, when dismantled and forensically examined, contained black human hair and biological material later found to be part of Onotera’s remains.

Regis was arrested on Dec. 17.

Between then and Dec. 19, he gave five interviews in the Langley RCMP detachment.

The officer who interviewed Regis the final time, Sgt. Ashley Harker, had spent more than five years working with various specialized units conducting suspect interviews, mostly homicide suspects.

As part of the admissions of evidence, a video of the fifth interview was played for the court, with Harker providing testimony about items in the room and actions not apparent in the recording.

Harker began the interview by telling Regis that the police had quite a bit of evidence. He showed Regis a picture of the mitre saw, and had a picture of the young child of Onotera and Regis on the table throughout the interview.

“This is Naomi, and that’s her DNA,” he told Regis early on in the recording. “This wasn’t fully cleaned,” he noted of the saw.

“When that comes out, that paints a picture. Not a nice picture,” Harker said.

He pressed Regis to tell his side of the story, and said he wanted to know Regis’s motivation.

“Take the path of truth, right now,” Harker urged, saying he knew that this was not who Regis “really” was.

Regis began talking, and detailed an argument with Onotera about when to put their child to bed.

On the video, Regis eventually spoke about an argument and a “fight,” and at one point mimed punching.

“I punched her,” he said.

He said he hit her on her left side, and she fell down.

After being pressed on what happened next, Regis got up and paced around the interview room. He began crying. Finally he began screaming loudly, sobbing, and collapsed to the floor, with Harker half-catching him on the way down.

In the courtroom, Harker noted that he had never conducted an interview like this before.

Harker and another officer eventually convinced Regis to get up off the floor and sit down again. He slowly collected himself.

“It’s not an easy journey,” Regis said, part of a long conversation that touched on everything from his child’s birth to Jesus. “It’s not an easy path.”

The rest of the video was to be shown in court on Friday, when the voir dire hearing continues.

After the first voir dire hearing, held last fall, Justice Devlin ruled that police had violated Regis’s rights on two occasions shortly after Onotera went missing – once when he was briefly detained in the back of a police vehicle, and once when police walked through the couple’s home.

But she also found that searches that found the mitre saw and pieces of human remains had been conducted properly, and evidence from those could be admitted for the trial.

Regis’s trial is scheduled to take place May 13 to June 27.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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