A St. Thomas courtroom was hushed by guilty pleas in the murder of a young Sarnia teacher on Friday morning.

Michael MacGregor, 22, and 34-year-old Tanya Bogdanovich pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, surprising many in the courtroom.

Noelle Paquette, 27, was found dead a day after disappearing on her way home from a New Year's Eve party in Sarnia, three years ago.

In an agreed statement of fact, the court heard the couple, "Had been planning the abduction, rape and murder of a random victim on New Year's Eve."

They apparently spotted Paquette walking by herself after leaving the party, followed her, picked her up in a car and drove her to a secluded woodlot west of Petrolia.

The court heard that she was then sexually assaulted at knifepoint, then stabbed.

MacGregor's lawyer Brian Grys said in a statement, "Mr. MacGregor made a decision to plead guilty. He neither asked for, nor is receiving anything as a result. It's an expression of remorse."

The trial for MacGregor and Bogdanovich had been set to begin in Windsor in April 2016.

The pleas were entered during pre-trial motions in the case, and the two are expected to return to court on Feb.10.

Paquettes' death prompted the creation of Noelle's Gift, a charity that helps disadvantaged children.

With files from The Canadian Press