“A careful examination of the evidence presented to prove a financial motive reveals an extremely weak basis.”

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Ernesto Fera, the man who was accused of murdering his wife Nadia Panarello 15 years after she was murdered at her home in Laval, was found not guilty Wednesday by a Superior Court judge.

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In a highly detailed decision that took over an hour to render, Judge James Brunton said the Crown had failed to prove both of his theories in the case: that Fera killed Panarello for financial reasons and that he had the “exclusive opportunity” to kill. his wife because the doors of the couple’s home were all closed when her body was discovered.

A few people in the St-Jérôme courtroom could be heard gasping when Brunton acquitted Fera.

The judge also highlighted serious “loopholes” in the investigation carried out by Laval police after Panarello was assassinated on February 12, 2004.

The Crown’s theory in the case was that Fera killed Panarello, between 7 and 7:30 a.m. that day, stabbing her 30 times and while one of his two daughters, who was 10 years old at the time, was downstairs having breakfast. and getting ready to go to school. The couple’s other daughter had left for school that morning around 7 a.m. M.

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The Crown argued that Fera had the exclusive opportunity to kill Panarello because, when the victim’s body was discovered later that morning by his mother, all the doors were locked. There were five entry points to the home and, Brunton ruled, the prosecution’s evidence that the patio door was locked was weak.

The Crown also alleged that Fera tried and failed to obtain a loan of $ 120,000 two days before Panarello was killed and that this caused him to kill his wife.

During the trial, the defense argued that the date Fera tried to secure the loan was in doubt and that it may have occurred weeks before Panarello was assassinated.

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Brunton said cell phone records showed the loan application was made between February 5 and 10, 2004.

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A month after Panarello’s death, Fera submitted an insurance policy that the couple had on their mortgage that paid the balance of what they owed on the house, which was worth $ 149,000. Months after the home loan was written off, Fera sold the residence for $ 390,000.

He then repaid a loan of $ 78,000 and $ 30,000 owed to Revenue Quebec.

He also received a total of more than $ 200,000 in two life insurance policies, including one that Panarello had through his workplace. Brunton noted that there was no evidence that Fera was aware of any of the life insurance policies. Panarello’s sister testified that she learned of the policy at Panarello’s workplace when she called to ask if her brother had one.

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Brunton dismissed the theory that murdering his wife was Fera’s “Plan B” to solve his financial problems because the couple had enough equity in their home to cover their debts.

“A careful examination of the evidence presented to prove a financial motive reveals an extremely weak basis. Yes, the financial situation of the couple and Mr. Fera was terrible in 2004. Yes, the victim was stressed by this reality, ”said Brunton. (However) it does not make sense that a man, according to the evidence, was in an ordinary love marriage in which there was no evidence of argument violence, suddenly and brutally murdered his wife. “

Some of the evidence heard during the trial centered on a large knife that police found inside the couple’s dishwasher. The Laval police officer assigned to catalog the evidence in February 2004 opened the dishwasher and noted that it had been recently executed and that the knife was clean. There were only a few items in the dishwasher and the officer asked another person to test the knife with Luminol, a product used to detect traces of blood.

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When no traces of blood were found, the police officer thought it was irrelevant to the investigation and was not seized. But investigators later realized that the size of the knife appeared to match the weapon used to kill Panarello. It wasn’t until 2012, when a new homicide investigator was assigned to the case, that the police officer assigned to catalog the evidence finally made a written record of the knife.

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Brunton ruled that the evidence presented about the knife “had no probative value” in the case.

Brunton also said the Crown’s decision not to call the couple’s youngest daughter as a witness represented a breach in the case.

“The court admits that the youngest daughter was 10 years old in 2004 and could have been less observant than someone older. But she could have provided some information, even if it was just on one topic, ”Brunton said, although he noted that there is no evidence that Laval police took a statement from the girl in 2004.

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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