Pathologist said Abbotsford woman may have died of head trauma and asphyxiation

David Miller on trial for killing of Fraser Valley woman

By Tim Petruk/Kamloops This Week

A Fraser Valley woman found dead beneath a mattress in a Kamloops hotel room in 2016 could have died as a result of either “significant” blunt-force trauma or “severe” asphyxiation, a judge has been told.

Debra Novacluse, 52, was discovered by staff at the Super 8 Motel in Aberdeen on Aug. 27, 2016. David Miller, now 69, was arrested days later in Ontario and is now standing trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on one count of first-degree murder.

In an interview with police after his arrest, Miller admitted to having caused Novacluse’s death, but said it was either accidental or as a result of rough sex gone too far.

Testifying in court on Wednesday, forensic pathologist Lisa Steele, who performed Novacluse’s autopsy, described a multitude of injuries, two of which could have been fatal on their own.

Steele said Novacluse’s face and head were bruised and swollen, as was her neck and chest. She also had injuries to her genitals consistent with an object having been forced inside her, court heard.

According to Steele, the injuries to Novacluse’s neck and throat were perhaps the most severe. She said she found a fractured ring of cartilage near Novacluse’s voice box, something she had never previously seen in a career of examining dead bodies.

“This is extensive or severe pressure on the throat,” Steele said, noting the injuries were likely caused by two hands. “This is a nine to 10 out of 10. This is severe damage.”

Steele also described bruising and abrasions over Novacluse’s back, arms and legs. She said the damage to the deceased’s face was consistent with having been punched multiple times.

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg asked Steele for her opinion on the cause of Novacluse’s death. Steele said there was evidence of extensive head trauma and severe asphyxiation.

“There’s no way to determine which of these processes would have resulted individually in her death,” Steele said. “It could be either injury or it could be a combination of both. It’s possible that the asphyxia on its own may have been the ultimate cause of death, but again, the blunt-force injuries to her head, particularly, would have been significant. I think it’s better to include all of this as a package.”

In his cross-examination of Steele, defence lawyer Jim Heller suggested there was no way to know how Novacluse was killed.

“It’s not exactly clear what killed Ms. Novacluse,” he said.

“It’s the injuries that killed her,” Steele replied. “Do I know exactly which one? No. But it’s the injuries that caused her death.”

Miller and Novacluse were visiting Kamloops from Abbotsford.

Prosecutors have alleged Miller beat Novacluse to death, then took her truck and drove it to Alberta, abandoning the vehicle in Airdrie before catching a flight from Calgary to Ontario.

Court has heard Miller discarded Novacluse’s belongings while driving from Kamloops to Calgary, near Sicamous and in Revelstoke. A police officer found her purse in a ditch near Sicamous.

Steele is the Crown’s final witness in a trial that has been ongoing for nearly a month.

Defence lawyer Jim Heller has not indicated whether Miller will call evidence.

The trial is scheduled to conclude later this month.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cop who lives in Mission awarded almost $3.2 million for 2 car crashes

Jeffery Neufeldt was injured on the job in collisions in 2013 and 2016

VIDEO: No need to stockpile food says Mission mayor

Pam Alexis records video message to the public

Sex offender charged again less than two months after prison release

Taylor Dueck, who was living in Mission, has history of sex assaults in Abbotsford

Mission’s Abram Wiebe commits to Chilliwack Chiefs

Fraser Valley Thunderbirds product set to join BCHL team for 2020-21 season

MISSING: Mission RCMP searching for Brandon Sakebow

He was last seen on March 22, 2020

‘The Office’ star John Krasinski offers Some Good News in trying times

‘The human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away’

Trudeau promises $82B in economic supports in COVID-19 fight

The money will come through a combination of direct supports for workers and businesses and tax deferrals

Canada to spend $2B more on procuring medical supplies for COVID-19 fight

Government has signed deals with three companies

World COVID-19 updates: Putin may be exposed; 30,000 prisoners released

Comprehensive news update from around the world as of Tuesday, March 31.

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

‘This is no joke’: B.C. woman in Alberta hospital asks people to stay home during COVID-19

‘I want people to start listening to what the doctors are saying. This is no joke, please stay home’

Rest stops barring washroom access to truckers a ‘huge problem’ as COVID-19 spreads

Teamsters Canada says truckers are increasingly being denied warm meals

Canadians asked to wash mailboxes, keep dogs at bay, to ensure safe mail delivery

Four postal workers in Canada have tested positive for COVID-19 infection:

Hospitality workers hit ‘first and hit hardest,’ says union seeking more support

Union represents workers in hotels, casinos, airports, arenas, universities, schools and remote resource camps

Most Read