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Guilty: Husband changes his plea in the death of B.C. school teacher

Obnes Regis initial not guilty plea changed on day 4 of manslaughter trial in death of Naomi Onotera
Friends and supporters of Naomi Onotera, who disappeared last August and was later found dead, were at Surrey Provincial Court on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, for the bail hearing of her accused killer, Obnes Regis. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

• Warning, this story contains disturbing details

Obnes Regis has changed his plea to guilty in the killing of his wife, Naomi Onotera, in 2021.

Regis’s trial for manslaughter and indignity to human remains in the death of Onotera began on Monday, May 27. The defence was to begin its case on Friday, but Regis’s lawyer, Gloria Ng, announced her client had chosen to withdraw his not guilty plea, and instead pleaded guilty to both manslaughter and indignity to human remains.

Ng indicated he admitted to manslaughter by “one punch” to Onotera’s head, which is similar to his admission during a police interrogation after his December, 2021 arrest.

During questioning, video of which was played for the court during a voir dire hearing, Regis acknowledged hitting Onotera during an argument. After that admission to police, he began howling, crying, and collapsed to the floor of the interrogation room.

Onotera went missing at the end of August 2021, and by mid-September police were looking into Regis as a suspect. With Friday morning’s guilty plea, Regis’s sentencing has been scheduled for mid-June.

Ng commented to media outside the courtroom, saying she can’t speak to Regis’s emotional state regarding the guilty plea, but expects June 17 sentencing hearing to be “emotionally charged.”

She was asked about how late the guilty plea has come about, and whether that will carry any weight with the judge when it comes to sentencing: “It certainly is something that is less impactful,” compared to if he’d pleaded guilty earlier, she noted.

Inside the courtroom, Onotera’s close family members watched quietly as Regis stood and answered the judge’s questions about his changed plea. He answered simply “yes” through a French interpreter as Justice Martha Devlin asked him about each element of the changed plea, and if he understood the consequences of his decision.

The trial began Monday, May 27, with a voluminous listing of agreed facts and evidence that was presented during a pair of lengthy pre-trial voir dire hearings last fall and earlier this spring.

The evidence already before Devlin, in a judge-only trial with no jury, included a videotaped interrogation of Regis by the RCMP, video and audio taken by undercover officers, video surveillance, and forensic evidence, including pieces of human tissue and DNA.

Devlin warned family and other loved ones about the disturbing information that was going to be presented during trial.

On Monday Crown counsel Crichton Pike presented evidence from the undercover officers and a “Mr. Big” sting while Regis was in custody. Regis allegedly told undercover officers that he disposed of his wife’s body parts along the Fort to Fort Trail in Fort Langley and in the Fraser River.

After Monday’s proceedings, Naomi’s sister spoke on behalf of the family. Kirsten Kerr spoke about the people loved by her sister, including her students and friends. Onotera was a mother and teacher.

“She was an amazing mother,” Kerr said. “She lived for her daughter, and she would do anything for her. And that’s one of the hardest parts is knowing that she won’t get to do that… She won’t get to see all her milestones. Her graduations, even going to kindergarten, going up growing up through school. She was a amazing sister.”

Kerr thanked the RCMP and all the people who’ve worked very hard on this case for all their efforts.

The trial had to be postponed due to a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that allowed defendants to choose in which official language they wanted their court proceedings done – all English, all French, or bilingual. So far, Regis’ court proceedings have been conducted in English, with a translator. When the latest proceedings started, he was asked for his language preference and after consulting with his lawyer, opted to continue with English and a translator.

On Wednesday, Sgt. Heather Burwell continued testimony that begun on Tuesday, talking about the search for evidence in Onotera’s Langley City home between Dec. 17 and 19, 2021.

There were no proceedings on Thursday, and the trial resumed Friday when the plea was changed.

Victim impact statements will be given at the sentencing hearing beginning on June 17, when Ng said her client is also expected to make a statement about how this has impacted him and about the decisions he made. The hearing could run for three days.

There is no agreement between Crown counsel and the defence on a recommended sentence. It will be a contested sentencing hearing, with each side arguing for its preferred sentence length.

Manslaughter has one of the broadest possible sentencing ranges in the Criminal Code. Sentences can be as high as life in prison, but there is no minimum sentence, unless the crime was committed with a firearm.


• READ MORE: Police stripped Onotera home for evidence

• READ MORE: DNA, undercover evidence detailed as manslaughter trial begins


Obnes Regis’s defence lawyer, Gloria Ng, spoke outside the New Westminster Supreme Court after her client entered a sudden guilty plea mid-trial on Friday, May 31. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
More than three months after she disappeared, the husband of missing Langley City woman Naomi Onotera was arrested and charged with manslaughter. (RCMP)
Forensic investigators were on scene in December 2021 at the Langley City home of Naomi Onotera, the day police confirmed her husband has been arrested and charged with manslaughter. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Police were at the home of missing teacher Naomi Onotera on 50th Avenue and 200th Street Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Heather Colpitts

About the Author: Heather Colpitts

Since starting in the news industry in 1992, my passion for sharing stories has taken me around Western Canada.
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