Former resort caretaker gets 25 years for ‘terrifying’ murder of his wife
Before leaving Hanson Island to meet her daughters, Jennifer McPherson agreed to do something fun with the man she loved.
But Traigo Andretti had other ideas. He had been planning to kill his 41-year-old companion for a month because he wanted out of the relationship.
Sometime around April 29, 2013, Andretti carried out his cruel plan using rope, a video camera and cunning to lure McPherson to a wooded area beside the fishing resort where they worked as caretakers.
Her remains were later found by a police dog and searchers in various spots around the island, located just south of Alert Bay in Johnstone Strait.
On Wednesday, in a Campbell River courtroom, Andretti appeared in leg shackles and a blue sweat suit, and was finally allowed to plead guilty to his crimes.
Sporting a full beard, the meekly-built 38-year-old said very little, only muttering “guilty” to counts of first degree murder and committing an indignity to a human body and remains. Andretti also confirmed he understood what was going on.
That wasn’t always the case over the past year as Andretti flip-flopped over guilty and not guilty pleas, refused to work with lawyers and was finally appointed legal counsel. However, no lawyer appeared on his behalf at the sentencing hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.
Andretti stood in the prisoner’s box with his head bowed and showed little emotion as the judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.
Justice Terrence Schultes acknowledged that Andretti had been found mentally fit to stand trial, but there was clearly a “disturbance” that should be addressed.
“(You) engaged in a very cruel and inhuman type of behaviour towards another human being,” the judge said.
He added that Andretti carried out his crime with a “coldness and passivity” and that McPherson suffered a terrifying death.
Crown prosecutor David Fitzsimmons provided details of the murder and handed over a video that Andretti filmed.
According to statements Andretti later made to RCMP investigators, he was unhappy and wanted out of the relationship with McPherson (they may have been married or common-law). He also wanted to remain working at Pacific Outback Resort.
The two met in Winnipeg in 2006 through a dating website. Two years later, Andretti was placed on probation after assaulting McPherson.
According to a Dec. 2013 article that appeared in the Winnipeg Sun, “Andretti has a form of autism and has been a cause of concern for police and justice officials after he failed to take prescribed medication.”
Still, in 2008, McPherson got the caretakers’ contract at the fishing resort and the couple packed up and relocated to Hanson Island. After five years though, McPherson wanted to move on while Andretti was planning to stay.
On May 1, 2013, McPherson had arranged to meet her two adult daughters at the BC Ferry terminal in nearby Port McNeill. However, when Andretti showed up and told them their mother had gone to Las Vegas, they became suspicious and contacted Alert Bay RCMP.
Police questioned Andretti and were also suspicious. They returned the next day with a police dog and discovered human remains on the island.
As they searched the island for McPherson, simply listed as “missing” at the time, Andretti left and went to stay with family in Campbell River. It was there, on May 4, when he turned himself in at the RCMP detachment and said he felt suicidal.
He was given a proper assessment and after his release from hospital was arrested for McPherson’s murder. He was interrogated three times, but said little. Finally, when investigators said they “had enough” with him, Andretti divulged his grim story.
Knowing that McPherson planned to meet with her daughters, he asked her to have some fun and express “her love” for him. So he set up a video camera, turned it on and began to tie her up to a small tree near a resort cabin.
“She’s co-operating, she’s not unhappy,” said Fitzsimmons, who saw the video as he prepared for a possible trial.
As McPherson is bound from toe to head, she makes one last request of Andretti as the rope is wound around her neck, “Be careful not to get it too tight.”
And with that, Andretti starts to pull tighter. He spins her around and chokes her until her body goes limp.
“You see her die,” Fitzsimmons said solemnly.
Andretti then left her tied to the tree as he watched the video several times.
He then dismembered her, burned parts of her body, cut off the flesh and then disposed of her remains at several locations.
He would later return to Hanson Island with police and lead them to the places where he disposed of the remains.
Fitzsimmons said it was deliberately-planned murder with Andretti considering a number of ways to kill McPherson as well as the pain it would cause her.
He also stopped taking his medication “to make it easier” to carry out the plan.
As well, Andretti was already contacting another woman on Craigslist.
It’s also believed that Andretti is being investigated by police in Winnipeg for the death of Myrna Letendre, 37.
She and Andretti may have been involved in a relationship, and then she disappeared in 2006.
Acting on a tip, police found her remains buried in the foundation of a Winnipeg home. The remains were discovered May 6, after Andretti was arrested.