Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

7-year sentence for Winnipeg man who killed HIV-positive boyfriend

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A Winnipeg man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for beating his boyfriend to death with a golf club after learning the victim was HIV-positive.

Michael Pearce, 43, was convicted of manslaughter earlier this year following a jury trial. He returned to court Wednesday morning for sentencing.

His lawyers had argued he should be given a penalty of 18 months time already spent in custody and released immediately. The Crown was seeking a total of 12 years for what they called a horrific attack much closer to murder given the violence involved.

Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg ultimately gave Pearce another five-and-a-half years behind bars in addition to the time he previously served before being released on bail.

Stuart Mark, 36, was found bludgeoned to death inside his Alfred Avenue home in January 2007. He had been struck at least 58 times with the weapon, court was told.

"Stuart was very special... kind-hearted, trusting, generous, friendly and an optimist," his mother, Gemma Ring, told court earlier this year in a victim impact statement. "My son was taken from me much too soon and I miss him with all my heart."

The victim's sister, Sandra Mark, told court she continues to be haunted by the way her brother died.

"How horribly scared, confused and frightened he must have been, being attacked, not knowing how to defend himself," she said.

The case against Pearce was largely based on a confession he made to police in July 2007. He claimed the killing took place after he became upset when Mark revealed he was HIV positive.

But Pearce later claimed police had "coaxed" him into making a bogus confession. He told jurors he overdosed on 14 Tylenol No. 3 tablets just prior to giving his statement to police.

There were no forensic or eyewitness links to the slaying.

The homicide went unsolved for several months. Pearce was interviewed on several occasions and eventually gave the videotaped confession, which jurors were shown during the trial.

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