A man accused of killing a young Cape Breton woman showed little emotion as he made his first court appearance in Sydney on Friday.

Morgan James MacNeil is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Laura Jessome, whose remains were found in a hockey bag, floating on the Mira River near Marion Bridge on May 25, 2012.

Michael Kuna, interim defence lawyer for the 21-year-old Glace Bay man, says MacNeil is worried about the charge.

“He’s nervous. He is apprehensive. There are serious charges.”

MacNeil became a public figure in May when police issued a mug shot after he was charged with robbing a bank.

Ashley Currie went to school with MacNeil.

“He was a good kid growing up. Personally, I knew him growing up, he was a good kid,” she says. “I don’t know what went wrong.”

Members of Jessome’s family left court without speaking to reporters, but a relative later offered insight into how they are feeling.

“The family is doing the best it can,” says Paul Pettipas, the victim’s uncle. “It is a very trying time. Laura’s birthday was just yesterday, so her mother is going through a lot of grief, and that is understandable.”                

Police haven’t said how Jessome died or commented on a possible motive for the killing, but a charge of second-degree murder suggests that whatever happened was not premeditated.

“First-degree murder involves planning and deliberation, so the difference between first and second-degree murder is the element of planning and deliberation,” explains Chief Crown attorney Dan MacRury.

Last month, police charged two other Glace Bay men in connection with Jessome’s murder.

Robert Edwin Matheson, 49, and Brian Augustine Deruelle, 37, are charged with accessory after the fact in connection with her death.

According to court documents, police believe 37-year-old Thomas Barrett of Glace Bay was also involved in the murder.

Barrett has not been charged but remains in custody on other violent, but unrelated charges.

Both MacNeil and Barrett are being held at the Cape Breton Correctional Facility, where they are under a court order not to communicate with each other.

MacNeil is due back in court later this month.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald