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Whether unwilling or unable to enter a not guilty plea, the suspect in the brutal sexual assault of a now-deceased Calgary senior will be facing a trial next February, a judge ordered Friday.

Justice Robert Hall took the rare step of entering not guilty pleas on behalf of Duran Ross Buffalo after the city man sat mum in the prisoner’s box as charges were read to him in Calgary Court of King’s Bench.

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Crown prosecutor Matt Dalidowicz asked Hall to enter the pleas after Buffalo’s lawyer, George Sirois, asked to withdraw from the file because of his client’s lack of communication.

“I have made as best efforts as I can with Mr. Buffalo and whether he’s unwilling or unable to engage with me I have been unable to communicate with him as counsel,” Sirois said, before Hall granted his application to be removed from the file.

Sirois said Buffalo has undergone five separate fitness assessments by doctors at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre, with the latest one last month finding he understood the legal process.

Despite that, the lawyer has not been able to get instructions from Buffalo on how to proceed with the case.

Hall then had Buffalo arraigned on charges of aggravated sexual assault and break and enter in connection with a Jan. 1, 2021, incident where a man entered the northwest apartment of a Calgary senior and sexually assaulted her.

At the time police described the attack on the 90-year-old victim as “shocking and heinous.”

Dalidowicz said the complainant has since passed away.

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