A Fraser Valley man who murdered his girlfriend in a Kamloops motel suite in 2016 will spend 15 years behind bars without possibility of parole.
David Miller was found guilty last July of second-degree murder, having beaten Debra Novacluse to death in a suite at the Super 8 Motel on Hugh Allan Drive in Aberdeen more than four years ago.
A conviction of second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence. On Friday, Feb. 19, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church was left to to determine a period of parole ineligibility, the minimum being 10 years and the maximum being 25 years.
Church found the aggravating factors of Miller hiding Novacluse’s body under a mattress, cleaning the scene of the crime, fleeing the province, disposing of her belongings along Highway 1 and his changing story once arrested in Ontario warranted a parole ineligibility at the top of the usual 12- to 15-year range.
Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg argued Miller shouldn’t be eligible for parole for between 18 and 22 years, citing the aggravating factors of the case, while defence lawyer Jim Heller argued for the minimum 10 to 12 years, noting the murder was spontaneous, with Miller losing control of his temper. He also said Miller is remorseful for the killing and explained his post-offence actions as being in a state of panic.
Church said that while the killing of Novacluse was likely spontaneous and unplanned, the circumstances of the case required a stronger message of condemnation and deterrence through a longer period of parole ineligibility than 10 to 12 years suggested by the defence.
“Ms. Novacluse was savagely beaten about her head and suffered such severe trauma to her neck from repeated choking and applications of force that her cricoid cartilage was fractured, something the pathologist had not seen before, even though she had conducted over 2,000 autopsies,” Church said.
Church, however, said she was not satisfied the circumstances of the case dictated that Miller be able to apply for parole outside the usual 12- to 15-year range, noting such a term did not give sufficient consideration to Miller’s potential for rehabilitation. Since his arrest, Miller has participated in myriad programming.
Novacluse, 52, was found dead by motel staff on Aug. 27, 2016. Miller, 59, was arrested days later in Ontario and has been in custody since.
Court heard Miller and Novacluse were visiting Kamloops from Abbotsford in the summer of 2016, meeting up at the Super 8 Motel.
After he was arrested, Miller eventually told police he was responsible for Novacluse’s death, but claimed the slaying was the result of accidental asphyxiation or rough sex gone too far — something Church found to be not credible, concluding Novacluse’s death was likely the result of an apparent domestic dispute.
Miller had been charged with first-degree murder because the Crown argued Novacluse’s death was part of a sexual assault, but Church said she was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that was the case. She found Miller guilty of the lesser included charge of second-degree murder.
A forensic pathologist testified Novacluse’s cause of death could have been either asphyxiation or blunt-force trauma. The amount of violence inflicted allowed the court to determine there was a specific intent to kill.
Miller, appearing via video conference from jail, apologized for his actions in court.
“My apologies to those I have hurt," Miller said. "My actions were by no means intentional. If there were any chance to turn back time I wish that I could."