A FATHER-of-two convicted of killing his pregnant teenage lover and dumping her body in a lake has lost a bid to appeal his conviction.
Darren John Ellis in 2008 was jailed for 21 years, with a minimum of 17-year term, for the murder of Naomi Bernaldo.
The 19-year-old disappeared in September 2006 and two months later her body was pulled from a lake in Creswick in central Victoria.
She had been stabbed in the chest, shot in the head and her body wrapped in chicken wire weighed down with rocks.
His legal team said the verdict was unsatisfactory, arguing that the trial judge erred in his directions and erred in admitting some evidence.
But the appeal judges disagreed and rejected the appeal bid on Thursday.
Here is some background on this gutless murderer…
Victim’s lover charged
- Shannon McRae
- November 07, 2006
A MAN accused of shooting and stabbing his teenage lover before dumping her body in a lake has appeared in court.
Darren John Ellis, 35, lived with 19-year-old Naomi Marree Bernaldo in a rented weatherboard house in Creswick, western Victoria, for about three months.
Mr Ellis was remanded in custody yesterday to face court in February after a brief appearance in Ballarat Magistrates’ Court.
Head bowed and dressed in a faded black T-shirt and black pants, a dishevelled Mr Ellis was supported in court by his father and a friend.
Mr Ellis was charged early yesterday with the murder of his de facto partner. Ms Bernaldo’s body was officially identified the previous day.
Police recovered her mutilated and decomposed body at St George’s Lake early on Friday after local teacher Tanya Beacham made the gruesome discovery while paddling a canoe.
Ms Bernaldo’s body had been wrapped in chicken wire and weighed down with 30kg of rocks and industrial weights.
The weatherboard house on Clunes Rd where the couple lived was deserted yesterday.
Two cars were parked in the driveway. An aluminium ski boat sat on a trailer in the yard.
Weeds dominated the garden, and a tortoiseshell kitten sniffed at an empty food bowl.
Neighbour Kylie Robertson said she rarely saw Ms Bernaldo.
“It’s pretty scary and has really shaken the town up,” she said.
“It’s really horrible to think something like this can happen around here.”
Another neighbour said the couple were quiet and kept to themselves.
A woman who works opposite the couple’s home told the Herald Sun she saw Ms Bernaldo most afternoons up until about a month ago.
“I initially thought they were father and daughter,” she said.
Detectives believe Ms Bernaldo’s body had been submerged in St George’s lake for up to a month when it was found last week.
Ellis Guilty of Creswick murder
The crowded court erupted with emotion as supporters of Ellis, including his parents, cried tears of despair while the 37-year-old shook his head.
The jury took just over a day to find Ellis, of Creswick, had murdered Ms Bernaldo in 2006, shortly after she discovered she was carrying his child.
Outside the crowded court, Ms Bernaldo’s mother, Anne-Marie Burke, wept and said: “I’ll never have her back though”.
Mrs Burke had told the court her daughter was considering an abortion because she did not believe Ellis, a father-of-two, wanted more children.
Ms Bernaldo’s uncle Peter Rhodes said outside court, the family were “over the moon” with the verdict.
“She was a beautiful girl, she had a loving family, what she went through no-one deserves to go through that,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned Darren Ellis can rot in jail, the whole family thinks that.”
Ms Bernaldo went missing in September 2006. Canoeists found her body floating in St George’s Lake, near Creswick outside Ballarat, on November 1, 2006.
She had been shot in the head at close range, stabbed in the chest and her body encased in chicken wire and weighted with rocks.
Mr Rhodes described the trial, which was moved to Melbourne after three juries were dismissed in Ballarat, as “hell” for Ms Bernaldo’s family.
He said the family planned to go St George’s Lake, where a cross had been erected for Ms Bernaldo, to say a prayer together.
“She’s the one who won it,” he said of the case.
The jury had heard Ellis told his estranged wife that Ms Bernaldo had left him in the middle of the night to seek help for her drug use.
Police had found chicken wire and black plastic cable ties, the same as those used to secure the wire around Ms Bernaldo’s body, in Ellis’ backyard.
Peter Chadwick, for Ellis, had told the jury his client had loved Ms Bernaldo and while he had a collection of guns and knives none had proven to be the murder weapons.
Ms Bernaldo’s friend Bianca Fraser gave evidence Ellis had been violent towards his teen lover.
Mr Rhodes said outside court, the couple’s relationship had appeared happy at the beginning.
“We did not know what Darren Ellis was like,” he said.
Justice Paul Coghlan will sentence Ellis on a date to be fixed.