The Montreal man charged in the first-degree murder of his fiancée Samantha Higgins returned to court Monday for a preliminary inquiry.

Higgins went missing in July 2015 and her dismembered body was found in a culvert a week later in Hinchinbrooke, near the U.S. border. Days later, Fontanelli was charged with first-degree murder.

Higgins and Fontanelli, both 22, had two young children together.

The facts of the preliminary hearing are subject to a publication ban, a normal order of proceedings to preserve evidence up to the trial.

The case has been bogged down by delays; the victim’s family has expressed frustration at the pace of the legal process.

Many of the victim’s family members were in the courtroom Monday, wearing white T-shirts that displayed Higgins' photo. They were extremely emotional.

Fontanelli remained motionless in the prisoner’s box, listening carefully to witnesses -- including Higgins' mother and Fontanelli's half-sister -- and avoiding eye contact with Higgins’ family.

The preliminary inquiry, which aims to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial, is expected to last two weeks.

If the case proceeds, the murder trial would be expected to take place in a year or two.