In an unexpected turn of events, Regina's first serial killer Clayton Bo Eichler pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder this week, just as he was set to stand trial.
Eichler admitted to killing two Indigenous women—Kelly Nicole Goforth and Richele Lee Bear—in 2013. He was going to be tried for two counts of first degree murder, but instead agreed to a plea bargain, and will be serving a life sentence in jail with no chance of parole for 20 years. (A first degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.)
On Tuesday, Eichler offered up something even more surprising than his admission of guilt—an apology to the families of his victims.
"Nobody has gained anything from this, and I regret—and I've wondered why it has happened," he said, according to the Regina Leader Post. He noted that if he were related to the victims "my hate, disgust would be through the roof."
"I know how it hurts me, and I can't imagine how it hurts you," he said. "There's no reversing this. And we all know this is not going to go away for a while. But I'm truly sorry."
For the family of Bear, whose body is still missing, the apology wasn't nearly enough.
"If he really was sorry ... he would tell me where my daughter is," her mother Michele said outside court. She posed the question directly to Eichler on Tuesday, to which he replied, "I don't have that answer."
Eichler was arrested on the very last day of 2013, three months after Goforth's body was discovered in a dumpster in the east end of Regina.
She was found stuffed inside garbage bags and a WinnWell hockey bag September 25, 2013. It is believed she was strangled to death the day before—a necktie that had Eichler's DNA on it was still around her neck when she was found. Investigators learned that the hockey bag is sold exclusively at Canadian Tire, and that Eichler had bought one in the area on Sept. 24. They arrested him December 31, 2013, and searched his home, where they came across photos of Bear's body.
Bear was last seen by friends and family at a birthday party August 20, 2013. Photos of her—found on Eichler's computer and phone—showed her partially naked in the back of his car, her head and face not showing, on a bed inside what appears to be Eichler's home, and laying on a sleeping bag. The same sleeping bag was found in Eichler's trunk.
Crown prosecutor Bill Burge told the Leader Post she appeared to be dead in the photos; a ligature mark was seen on her neck. A pathologist determined that she too had been strangled.
Initially Eichler was charged with indecent interference with a body, in addition to his murder charges.
"It is clear when one looks carefully at all these photographs that there are very intrusive things happening to Ms. Bear. There is never any response from her," Burge said.
Burge said the victims were sex workers, which is how they crossed paths with Eichler. Part of his plan was to call another woman who'd been strangled by Eichler and survived to testify during the trial.
As for motive, Eichler's attorney Morris Bodnar told reporters Eichler struggled with a meth addiction that made him "show anger more quickly."
"He's paying a very heavy price for doing something horrible," he said.
A joint statement by the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council and the Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services said Indigenous women living in poverty "are forced to put themselves at greater risk for harm."
"The harm, in this case, caused the deaths of Kelly and Richele. Regardless of what a woman may do in her life, never should she or any person expect that any lifestyle choice should make them a target for predators to hurt them or end their lives."
Addressing Eichler in court, the families of his victims expressed the grief he's caused.
"The past three years have been agony for us, living without my baby," Goforth's mom Maxine Goforth said, noting her daughter's four year old son will "never get to feel his mommy's love."
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