Accused killer pleads not guilty in attack on Grizzlies actor, friend in 2021

Trial of Scott Hala opens in Kugluktuk

Emerald MacDonald seen here in a scene from the 2018 film “The Grizzlies,” was killed in 2021 near Kugluktuk. Her accused killer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. (File photo)

By Jorge Antunes

Updated on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 2 p.m.

Investigators found bullet holes in the walls and shot-out windows at the cabin where the body of actor Emerald MacDonald was found in 2021 alongside her badly injured friend, the opening day of the trial of their accused attacker heard Tuesday.

Scott Hala is charged with first-degree murder in the death of MacDonald, as well as the attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault of her female friend whose identity cannot be published due to a court-ordered ban.

Hala pleaded not guilty to all three charges Tuesday. The trial, which is expected to last four days, is being held at Kugluktuk’s community hall. The Nunavut Court of Justice provided an audio feed of the trial to Nunatsiaq News.

MacDonald was best known for the role she played in the movie The Grizzlies, about a lacrosse team in Kugluktuk that helps local youth rally against some of the highest suicide rates in North America.

In court, Crown prosecutor Emma Baasch outlined an agreed statement of facts regarding events that started on April 29, 2021, when MacDonald and some friends were staying at a cabin five kilometres from Kugluktuk.

MacDonald had snowmobiled to Kugluktuk to replenish their supplies. Baasch said that at around 10:30 p.m. on April 30, some other friends visited MacDonald and one of her friends, who were then by themselves at the cabin, and found nothing amiss.

Shortly after midnight on May 1, the friend texted her then-partner to say she and MacDonald would be staying at the cabin.

About an hour later, at 1:16 a.m., MacDonald texted a friend to say that Hala was outside their cabin. She said she and her friend were “both feeling [creeped out],” according to a text message read out in court.

Two days later, on May 3 at around 9 a.m., Melissa MacDonald contacted a mutual friend because neither of the women had shown up to work.

When the friend, identified in court as Randy, went to check on them, he found MacDonald’s partially nude body in the middle of the cabin, and the other woman lying unconscious in a corner of the room.

Baasch said the friend had bruising over her left eye and was taken outside to wait on a snowmobile. A medical examination later revealed she suffered a swollen leg, bruising on the front of both legs, and a laceration on the back of her head in which a small metal object was found at the point of laceration.

The friend repeatedly told Randy she did not know what happened.

Court heard that Randy returned to the cabin, checked MacDonald for a pulse but determined she was dead. She was found partially nude, with her pants pulled down around her knees and her shirt pulled up above her breasts.

In the cabin later that day, RCMP investigators discovered bullet holes in the walls and shot-out windows.

Baasch said forensic pathologist Dr. Tara Dixon determined MacDonald’s cause of death as being a single gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators took swab samples from MacDonald and identified “DNA components of a mixed origin from MacDonald and an unidentified male,” Baasch said.

A subsequent sample from Hala matched that of the “unidentified male,” she said.

Much of the trial’s opening day was spent reviewing footage from Hala’s statement to police, recorded about eight hours after he was arrested on Oct. 15, 2021.

In the video, Hala is heard admitting that he had been outside the cabin at some point and that he returned sometime later.

While speaking with RCMP investigators, Hala also questioned the validity of the DNA evidence.

The investigators told Hala there was zero possibility of the DNA belonging “to any other person on this planet.”

The trial continues Wednesday.

Correction: This article has been updated from its original version to comply with a court-ordered publication ban.


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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Disappointed on

    I believe this news article contains excessive detail, causing the family to relive the traumatic details which is unnecessary for the purposes of sharing the plea of not guilty by the accuse.

    Also if you are going to publish stories of this nature maybe Including a trigger warning and a mental health hotline number would be considerate.

    I am disappointed with Nunatsiaq for publishing such content tbh.

    • Posted by First time? on

      Is this your first time reading an article about a murder trial? Pretty much every article by every news agency does this.

    • Posted by I Applaud NN This Once on

      Trigger warnings are completely ineffective except at causing a brief period of stress among readers.

      It is appropriate and best practice not to have them.

    • Posted by alex on

      I agree that this can be traumatic, however as the newspaper of record, Nunatsiaq has the privilege to report on such matters, and court cases are always important aspect of journalism, and censorship of the courts or request not to have the record published is fundamentally wrong. I am happy that Nunatsiaq provide this type of information from the courts!

      • Posted by J Jonah jameson: on

        “Turn on the TV! Go online! Pickup a newspaper!”

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