A man who was charged with killing his half-sister in 2013 entered a surprise guilty plea in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Monday morning on what was supposed to be the first day of his trial.
Mathew Pernosky, 33, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Rachel Pernosky, 18, of Mission. Two charges of indignity to a body are expected to be stayed at his sentencing hearing, which has been scheduled for June 21.
Second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence, but the sentencing hearing will determine Pernosky’s parole eligibility, which can range from 10 to 25 years.
The Crown indicated in court Monday that the decision to enter a guilty plea had been reached over the weekend. Rachel’s family plans to enter victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing, the Crown said.
Speaking outside of the courthouse, Rachel’s sister, Brittany Pernosky, said the family learned of the impending guilty plea over the weekend. About a dozen family members were in the courtroom on Monday morning.
“We are all very relieved. My mom was emotionally exhausted … and she was just drained from the whole experience of having to come here and relive it all again, so we’re definitely relieved that we don’t have to carry on (with) that,” Brittany said.
Rachel, the mother of a now six-year-old boy, was reported missing on March 16, 2013. She has last been seen at her home on Kite Street in Mission.
Police, search and rescue members, and volunteers began looking for her and, three days later, Rachel’s body was found in steep terrain in Chilliwack, near Old Orchard Road.
At the time, police said they believed the attack was not random.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, along with the Mission RCMP, announced on June 27, 2016 that Rachel’s estranged half-brother had been charged with her killing. Details of how she died were not released.
At that time, RCMP S/Sgt. Jennifer Pound said Pernosky had been identified as a person of interest early in the investigation.
Brittany said her family has fond memories of Rachel and thinks of her often.
“She stole a lot of stuff,” she laughed. “We joke about that a lot. Any time we’re trying to find something, it’s like, ‘Oh, well.. There she is.’ She had a really obnoxious laugh … that’s not a sound I’ll ever forget.”
Brittany said that Rachel’s son is doing well and “looks exactly like her,” which helps keep her memory alive. She said they visit Rachel’s gravesite on special occasions, including on the boy’s birthday, when a gift is left behind for him on behalf of his mom.
She said although the guilty plea is a relief, it doesn’t change the loss of her sister.
“It’s not something that you can get over or ever will get over. People say that time heals everything, but that’s not the case … You live with this forever.”
Brittany also expressed appreciation for the support the family received after Rachel’s death.
“We’re really grateful for the help that the community gave us when this all happened. It was beyond expectations — all of Mission, the support we got, was astounding,” she said.