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Man pleads guilty in 1984 death of Quebec actress

The murder of a popular Quebec children's television performer who was branded with a hot iron bar and strangled to death in 1984 has finally been put to rest.

A man pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder for killing Denise Morelle while she was on an apartment hunt.

Gaetan Bissonnette made the admission in Quebec Superior Court as Ms. Morelle's family looked on.

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Ms. Morelle's case was solved by the Montreal police cold case unit after a DNA data bank provided a match in 2005.

Crown prosecutor Jacques Dagenais described the crime as unusually brutal. Mr. Dagenais said it appeared Mr. Bissonnette was squatting in the unlocked apartment when Ms. Morelle made the visit alone on July 17, 1984.

After the guilty plea, Ms. Morelle's family said they'd given up hope that the crime would ever be solved.

"We had very little hope that it would finally happen," said Alain Morelle, a nephew who was 19 at the time of the murder.

Mr. Dagenais said the difficulty of prosecuting an old case led the Crown to accept the guilty plea to second-degree murder.

"When a crime is that old, there are all sorts of problems with the memory of witnesses, exhibits that can't be found," Mr. Dagenais said.

"We're very happy to bring the case to a resolution in this way."

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Mr. Bissonnette's lawyer, Tom Pentefountas, said his client pleaded guilty out of a sense of remorse and didn't want to force the family to relive the horror of the killing during a trial.

Mr. Bissonnette, who has a long criminal record, will be sentenced on Tuesday.



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