Judge won’t accept man’s murder plea

Traigo Andretti will have to appear in person in a Campbell River courtroom on Aug. 26

Traigo Andretti wants to plead guilty to murder, but a judge wouldn’t a allow it – at least not yet.

The 37-year-old Hanson Island man was back in Campbell River provincial court on Monday. He appeared by video from jail cells in Victoria where he’s been held since his arrest.

He’s charged with first degree murder and committing an indignity to a human body. The remains of his wife, Jennifer McPherson, 41, were found May 6, on Hanson Island where the two worked as caretakers at Pacific Outback Resort.

The island is located north of Campbell River, about eight kilometres east of Telegraph Cove.

McPherson was last seen on April 29. Following an extensive search, her remains were found and Andretti was arrested the same day.

During a court appearance last month, Andretti’s lawyer, Roxanne Helme asked to be removed from the case because the lawyer-client relationship had broken down, she told the judge.

Andretti then told the judge he doesn’t want a lawyer. However, the court has ordered Legal Services to provide a lawyer to advise Andretti and to oversee all court proceedings.

On Monday though, Andretti still didn’t have a lawyer and told the court he wants to plead.

“I’m ready to enter a guilty plea to all charges,” he said.

However, Judge Peter McCarthy wouldn’t accept the pleas.

“This is a very serious charge…you are not doing yourself any favours,” the judge warned.

Crown prosecutor David Fitzsimmons agreed with the judge’s assessment and requested that Andretti be brought up, in person, for his next court appearance.

“These video appearances don’t seem to be working,” said Fitzsimmons. “He needs (legal) counsel and we’re not getting anywhere.”

He also added that Andretti needs to enter pleas in B.C. Supreme Court, not  provincial court. The judge concurred and ordered Andretti to appear in person on Aug. 26, at which time a Legal Aid lawyer will be present to act on Andretti’s behalf.

Fitzsimmons also told the court that Andretti’s mother and brother – who have been in the gallery for all his court appearances – expressed concern about his mental fitness. But the prosecutor said Andretti appears to know and understand what is happening with his case.

Andretti is also being investigated in connection with the death of a former girlfriend, Myrna Letandre, whose remains were found May 9 in a Winnipeg rooming house where they apparently lived together.

She was last seen in October 2006.