Family members of Brandon Martin described a year of agony spent searching for him as the man who murdered him was sentenced Monday in Miramichi court.
Ethen James Harnish, 23, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years for killing Martin on May 22, 2019.
Harnish was charged with first-degree murder in 2020 and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in February.
Natacha Daigle, Martin's mother, read an emotional victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing.
"To the monster who took my son's life, yes, you broke me," Daigle said. "You took away my right to see him one last time, my right to say goodbye."
Judge calls crime 'senseless, vicious'
A victim impact statement prepared on behalf of Martin's young daughter said she had searched rooms calling out "daddy, daddy, daddy" and asked family members why he had gone to heaven.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Fred Ferguson noted the "monstrous nightmare" Martin's family has lived since 2019.
"Brandon Martin was a son, brother, father," Ferguson said. "He was the victim of a senseless, vicious murder."
According to an agreed statement of facts, Martin and Harnish were friends.
Harnish suspected Martin was involved in a burglary at Harnish's Miramichi apartment about a month before the murder.
On May 22, Martin was driven by his sister to Harnish's apartment.
Harnish told several others in a separate apartment that Martin was in his unit and that he was going to kill him.
Back in Harnish's apartment, Harnish and Martin got into an argument about the alleged theft of drugs.
Harnish picked up a break-barrel, over-under .22/.20 gun and shot Martin twice in the back of the head at close range.
Harnish then enlisted others to help clean up the scene and remove Martin's body.
Daniel Dube pleaded guilty last year to helping Harnish.
Dube drove Harnish, along with Martin's remains, to a remote area on Route 108, which runs between Renous and Plaster Rock, where they attempted to burn and bury the body.
Another person was enlisted to drive Harnish to the Hardwicke area, east of Miramichi, where the murder weapon was hidden in a pond. Other items belonging to Martin were partially burned and hidden, including clothing and his identification, in a separate pond.
Crown prosecutor Melanie MacAulay told the court in September last year that Harnish threatened Dube, who feared he would also be killed if he didn't help.
Harnish and Dube lied to police about their role in Martin's disappearance.
MacAulay said a woman went to police about a year after Martin disappeared. Officers then re-interviewed Dube in May 2020. Dube admitted his involvement and took investigators to Martin's shallow grave.
His remains were recovered May 26, 2020, just over a year after his death.
Dube was sentenced to 30 months in prison last year for his role the crime.
Ferguson said a Miramichi police officer had promised Martin's mother he would find her son and bring him home one way or another.
Daigle in her statement turned to the officer, Andrew Vickers, in the court gallery, and thanked him.
"You kept your word," Daigle said.
Miramichi Police Force deputy chief Brian Cummings said Vickers and other investigators "invested a lot of time and blood, sweat and tears" in the case.
"This was very much a team effort and a lot of time and energy went into bringing Brandon Martin home to his family where he belonged. Everybody deserves kudos for that."
During her statement, Daigle also addressed Harnish.
"You shot my son twice in the back of the head and you never gave himself a chance to defend himself," Daigle said. "You're a coward."
Harnish told the judge he wishes he would have had the courage to admit what he did right away.
He turned to Martin's family in the gallery, telling them Martin loved them.
"Honestly, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all the pain I caused you when he was missing," Harnish said.
Ferguson said the main issue he had to decide was how long it would be before Harnish is eligible for parole.
The judge accepted the joint recommendation of the Crown and defence lawyers to set that at 15 years.
However, Ferguson said that's only when Harnish can first apply for parole and doesn't mean it will be granted.