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'I am really, really sorry': Lawyer reads statement from Langley, B.C., man who killed his wife

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A B.C. man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his wife – Langley teacher-librarian Naomi Onotera – chose not to address the victim's family and friends during a sentencing hearing Tuesday.

One of the lawyers for Obnes Regis told the court during the morning session that she would consult with him over lunch break to see if he wished to speak on his own behalf, but ultimately he did not.

Instead, Stephanie Head, another one of his lawyers read out a statement drafted by Regis.

"To the honourable court and the Onotera family. I am really, really sorry and I apologize with the worst remorse and regret I can express for what I did that night. I never had the intention when we started arguing that it would lead to Naomi dying," the statement began. "There is no way that I can go back in time, but if I could I would have walked away."

The statement also contained a portion addressed directly at the daughter Regis shared with Onotera, who was just 18 months old at the time of her mother's death.

"To my daughter, I have failed you as a father. But I hope the good care and education that your mom and I gave you in the beginning will help you in your life," Regis wrote.

"I don't deserve your forgiveness but I hope my acceptance of responsibility can one day earn me a chance to be in your life...I love you."

As Head began to read the statement from Regis, Onotera's sister Kirsten Kerr stood up and abruptly walked out of the court.

Crown counsel Crichton Pike began submissions Monday and wrapped up early Tuesday, before knowing what Regis would have to say on his own behalf.

"Mr. Regis is a person who can lie believably when it suits his interests," Pike said. "And therefore, any words he may say to this court should be approached with caution."

Family reported Onotera missing in late August of 2021 and RCMP and the community rallied to search for the 40-year-old, who worked as a teacher-librarian in a Langley elementary school.

According to Crown, Regis convincingly played the part of a concerned husband willing to do whatever was necessary to assist police with their search, despite knowing his wife was already deceased.

In December of 2021, he would tell undercover officers that he killed Onotera with a single punch during an argument in a bathroom in the couple's home, before dismembering her body and disposing of her remains along the bank of the Fraser River in Fort Langley.

He would repeat that confession to RCMP officers during an interrogation days later, telling police his daughter had witnessed the argument and assault that led to Onotera's death, and accompanied him when he scattered his wife's remains.

Despite admitting to killing Onotera and disposing of her body to cover up what he had done, Regis initially pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and indignity to human remains -- before abruptly changing his plea mid-trial after Crown had finished presenting its case.

On Monday, nine family members and one close friend of Onotera submitted victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing.

Regis stared straight ahead, revealing no emotion as they shared the grief and anger they experience over Onotera's death.

Crown is seeking a sentence of 14 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and an additional five years on the count of committing indignity to human remains, with the sentences to be served consecutively.

Regis, initially from Haiti, will be subject to removal from Canada upon release from prison.

He arrived in the country in 2003 on a student visa which has since expired, and he has been the subject of a removal order since his request to stay on humanitarian grounds was denied in 2010.

It is not clear if he and Onotera sought a change in his immigration status after they were married and prior to her death.

The defence is seeking a sentence of five to six years on the manslaughter charge and five years on the count of indignity to human remains for a total of 10 or 11 years in prison.

"He acknowledges that his actions were terrible and he has expressed his sincere regret and remorse and shame for what he did," Ng told the court during defence submissions.

Regis has been in pre-trial custody since his arrest and he will receive 1.5 times credit for the 30 months he has already spent behind bars.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Martha Devlin will announce her decision on a sentence for Regis on July 16.

Naomi Onotera, a 40-year-old teacher-librarian from Langley, B.C., went missing on Aug. 28, 2021.

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