Leon Wokeley has pleaded guilty to killing Pamela Napoleon in 2014.
Wokeley's trial began in Fort St. John Monday morning, but quickly ended after he entered a plea to second-degree murder. Two other counts of arson and indignity to human remains will be stayed.
"Criminal trials are very fluid, and he made that decision today," defence lawyer Georges Rivard said. "It was a reasoned decision, and a very heavy decision, but a reasoned one where this was, at this point, the best decision to take."
"Mr. Wokeley wishes that the family has some form of closure now,” Rivard added.
Wokeley pleaded not guilty last year, and had elected for a trial by judge.
Members of Napoleon's family burst into tears in court and hugged each other as Wokeley admitted the murder to BC Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Duncan.
Napoleon is remembered as a loving daughter, sister, and mother who cared deeply about family and community, and who loved her culture and cooking meals for special occasions.
"We're happy about the outcome but it doesn't bring our sister back," Vanessa Apsassin, Napoleon's sister, said outside of court.
"He took something away from us. We'll never see her again; her smile, her laughter. She'll never see her grandchildren grow up."
Napoleon was last seen leaving the Blueberry River First Nation with Wokeley on July 8, 2014. Her remains were found in a burned down cabin near the community a month later. She was 42.
Wokeley was arrested in October 2017 after he was the subject of a Mr. Big sting operation, often used during undercover police work to elicit confessions from suspects. More than 100 hours of recordings were compiled as part of the investigation, court had previously heard.
Wokeley appeared in court Monday wearing a red T-shirt and spoke very little, besides acknowledging to Justice Duncan that he was making his plea voluntarily and of his own free will. He remains in custody.
Wokeley will next appear in court on July 15 to set a date for sentencing. Second degree murder carries a mandatory minimum of life in prison.
Duncan ordered a pre-sentencing report and a Gladue report to determine Wokeley's parole eligibility.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.