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Accused UBCO security guard killer opts for trial by judge alone

Dante Ognibene-Hebbourn, charged with second-degree murder, has elected to trial by judge alone
Harmandeep Kaur (pictured) was working as a security guard at UBCO in Kelowna on the night she was killed. Dante Ognibene-Hebbourn, has been charged with second degree murder for her death. (Facebook)

Exactly two years after the alleged murder of a UBC Okanagan security guard, the accused, Dante Ognibene-Hebbourn, has elected to proceed to trial by judge alone.

On Feb. 26, at what was scheduled to be a voir dire hearing, Ognibene-Hebbourn told the court that he wanted to be tried by judge alone, not by judge and jury–which is the standard procedure for murder trials.

Voir-dires can be thought of as mini-trials held either before or in the midst of court proceedings to determine the admissibility of certain pieces of evidence. Voir dires are always held without jurors present. In cases that will be tried by judge and jury, the information presented at the voir dire is restricted under a publication ban and cannot be reported on to ensure the jury does not base their decisions on potentially inadmissible evidence.

If an accused elects for a trial by judge alone, as Ognibene-Hebbourn did, the evidence presented at the voir dire is able to be published.

The voir-dire held on Feb. 26, was to determine whether an alleged admission of guilt was voluntary and if it could be entered as evidence. Since Ognibene-Hebbourn has elected for trial by judge alone, the evidence presented at the voir dire is able to be published.

Ognibene-Hebbourn allegedly confessed to killing a UBCO security guard named Harmandeep Kaur on Feb. 26, 2022, after being arrested by RCMP.

According to Damienne Darby, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, Justice Mayer ruled that the statements are admissible and can be used in the trial.

Ognibene-Hebbourn is facing charges of second-degree murder after allegedly attacking and killing Kaur. The accused was working the night shift as a janitor on campus when he allegedly attacked Kaur in the early hours of the morning.

The 24-year-old female was pronounced dead shortly after the incident.

Immediately after the incident, Ognibene-Hebbourn was detained under the Mental Health Act at the Kelowna General Hospital.

On April 5, Ognibene-Hebbourn was arrested and charged with second degree murder. Ognibene-Hebbourn has undergone several psychiatric evaluations. The assessments, conducted by psychiatrists, are used to determine fitness to stand trial and to criminal responsibility in relation to potential mental illness.

READ MORE: Man charged in death of UBCO security guard undergoes psychiatric evaluation

Kaur had moved from India to Canada in search of higher education “to progress her life,” said Kuljit Pabla a family member of Kaur’s who resides in West Kelowna.

Pabla spoke to Capital News back in 2022 and said that Kaur made the decision to move to Canada after extensive discussions with her family in pursuit of a better future. Pabla explained that her family chose Canada because they consider Canada a safe place.

READ MORE: UBCO homicide victim new resident to Canada

“Usually it is,” said Pabla.

Kaur had been granted her permanent residency just three weeks prior to the attack.

Kaur had been working for Paladin security as an officer at UBCO, hoping to one day attend school there, said Pabla.

“Her goal was to continue (her) education as she saved up money, with support from the family,” he said.

She would tell Pabla and his wife “I want to be like them,” when she saw the kids studying at the university while she worked security. “She wanted to be there as a student,” said Pabla.

The next appearance is on March 18, to set a new trial date.

READ MORE: Vigil held at UBCO for homicide victim

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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