Days after a second man was charged with the 2018 shooting death a 20-year-old woman near Fraserwood, the man originally accused of the slaying has had his murder charge dropped.

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Days after a second man was charged with the 2018 shooting death a 20-year-old woman near Fraserwood, the man originally accused of the slaying has had his murder charge dropped.

Defence counsel Saul Simmonds said a second-degree murder charge against his client, 23-year-old Jesse Paluk, was dropped in court earlier this week.

FACEBOOK</p><p>Hailey Dugay, 20, was shot and killed in the RM of Armstrong.</p>

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Hailey Dugay, 20, was shot and killed in the RM of Armstrong.

However, Paluk pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless discharge of a weapon, as well as assault with a weapon — the latter connected to him using a beer bottle in a fight earlier in the evening of Nov. 17, 2018, at a bar in Fraserwood, 80 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

"My client always maintained he was innocent (of the homicide)," Simmonds said Wednesday.

"He recognized he shouldn't have fired a firearm at all, but he did not fire towards the vehicle. It took a long time for the forensics to show this... This is not a plea bargain.

"This is clearly because the evidence supported my client's version of events."

RCMP said last week William Ryerson Comber, 20, from the Rural Municipality of East St. Paul, had been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of Hailey Dugay.

Comber was arrested Aug. 8, and appeared Monday in a Winnipeg courtroom.

Dugay was in one of three vehicles driving south of Fraserwood on Provincial Road 231 in the RM of Armstrong on Nov. 17, at about 11:40 p.m., when she was shot with a rifle from the roadside. She was pronounced dead shortly after.

Paluk was arrested after being tracked to a field with the help of a RCMP canine unit and the Winnipeg Police Service's helicopter.

Paluk — who had been in custody until Monday, when provincial court Judge Wanda Garreck granted his release — still faces the possibility of a multiyear prison term.

Simmonds said Paluk has not been sentenced yet; a conviction for reckless discharge of a weapon carries a minimum prison term of four years.

"It is a significant sentence," the lawyer said. "We will be arguing against that."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.