Warning: This story may be distressing to some readers.
A man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a Nanaimo courthouse for killing his ex-girlfriend in Bowser.
It came Tuesday morning in front of a packed courthouse on the day his trial was set to begin.
Friends say they’re focusing on who the victim, 41-year-old Caroline Bernard, was.
“She was a real light in this world, and she had a strong sense of social justice. She was an incredible mom. She was really fun to play games, play sports with to paint with,” said Christa Petch, a friend who attended the hearing.
“A happy person. Just always doing things to improve the lives of others, whether her mom, her brother and her daughter, who were so important to her,” said Angela Davies, another friend.
Luciano Mariani admitted he came to Vancouver Island from Alberta before murdering his ex-girlfriend in her bed.
The horrific details of her death on Aug. 31, 2021, were heard by many in the courtroom for the first time.
Those present heard Mariani had been staying on and off at the rented Bowser home on Thompson Clark Drive West starting in March, but Bernard kicked him out in May. Months later, he returned to kill her.
The court heard Mariani left Calgary in his father’s truck and travelled to the Island. On the way to Bowser, he bought a baseball bat, hockey tape and batteries for a headlamp. All were items used in Bernard’s murder.
His truck was seen on a video recording going past the home nine times before he went and smashed in the sliding glass doorway to the bedroom at 4 a.m. and hit Bernard with the tape-covered baseball bat multiple times.
The grisly beating was witnessed by a child in the room whose screams alerted Bernard’s mother, who lived upstairs, and a neighbour to call 911.
Bernard died on the way to hospital.
Mariani then left the truck at Rosewell Creek Provincial Park, slashed his wrists and told the first people he saw he thought he had killed his ex-girlfriend.
Leading up to the murder, police determined Mariani had done several internet queries on “domestic murders,” “how do you feel after committing a murder?” and “I want to hurt my ex.”
Crown Counsel says the police work was crucial to the case.
“Fortunately, Mr. Mariani did leave a thread for them to follow so excellent police work and without it, you wouldn’t have a guilty plea to first-degree murder for sure,” said Nick Barber, crown counsel on the case.
Friends say Bernard was a huge part of her community, including raising money for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“We think about her and reminisce about her often. She touched a lot of people through her running through her gardening,” said Jen Wrye, another friend.
Mariani’s defence counsel plans on constitutionally challenging the mandatory minimum 25-year life sentence that goes with first-degree murder.
A date for the court challenge is expected to be set on July 17 for some time this coming fall.