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Woman to appeal life sentence for deadly rooming-house arson

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A Winnipeg woman who killed five people in a rooming-house arson plans to appeal her life sentence on the basis it is harsh and excessive.

But first, Lulonda Lynn Flett, 36, must convince Manitoba's top court she should be eligible to fight to have her sentence overturned, as her appeal comes well after the usual post-sentencing filing deadline of 30 days.

On July 16, 2011, Flett set fire to the porch of an Austin Street North rooming house out of anger towards two of her boyfriend's relatives.

Firefighters arrived to find the three-story home fully engulfed in flames.

Eight people were inside the home. Two escaped unhurt and six were pulled from the home by firefighters. Just one of the six survived.

On June 13, Flett was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for seven years after pleading guilty to five counts of manslaughter.

Justice Deborah McCawley ruled the life term — which means corrections officials will keep tabs on her for the rest of her days — was "fair and just" given Flett's need for "significant and ongoing help" with long-standing personal troubles as well as to denounce what she did.

The court has previously heard that Flett was born and raised in a violent environment and used alcohol for years to numb the emotional pain. She was sexually abused as a child for several years and her pleas for help were ignored. Her first husband was physically abusive. Flett suffers intellectual and cognitive deficits, had a drinking problem, poor communication skills and was easily angered.

Appeal documents filed Friday afternoon indicate Flett will show the Court of Appeal she signed an application for legal-aid funding for a prospective appeal on the day she was sentenced, but an initial plea to the court was misfiled.

The documents suggest Flett's appeal will focus on how the court imposed life despite finding Flett had diminished culpability for her actions due to cognitive problems and aboriginal heritage in which she suffered horrendous abuse.

A date to hear the case has not been set.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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