Police pulled up to find him smoking a cigarette outside the apartment building where he’d killed his wife hours earlier.
Danny Van Oosten gave officers the keys to the apartment and told them they would find her inside. He had taken a bunch of pills, he said, and wanted to die.
Less than a year later, the 57-year-old plumber appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, admitting he strangled his wife, 54-year-old Lisa Charmaine Van Oosten, after they got into an argument on July 17, 2016.
Van Oosten was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years, the minimum sentence for second-degree murder in Canada, largely because his early guilty plea spared his family and friends from having to testify at trial over the death of a woman they loved.
"On this day, there were heated emotional circumstances. His life is permanently changed from what happened on that day. He knows that other members of his family have been very much affected as well. He’s truly remorseful for the pain that he’s caused," defence lawyer Zachary Kinahan told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar.
"He lost control, and now he’s lost contact with his children. And he may have permanently lost them. These are issues that will take time to resolve. He will live with this for the rest of his life."
The Van Oosten’s 28-year marriage was "on-again, off-again" and volatile — often resulting in screaming and plate-throwing, RCMP would later learn. She had been living on her own in a 55+ apartment building on a quiet street in St. Jean Baptiste, population roughly 560. A few months before her death, the couple reconciled, and Danny Van Oosten moved in, despite a warning from a relative who told him, "This isn’t going to work out. You guys aren’t good for each other."
On that Sunday in July, neighbours heard the couple fighting.
"What the heck? Somebody played with my phone," Danny Van Oosten shouted.
Later, his wife yelled, "Get out of my house. I don’t trust you anymore."
In a series of Facebook messages and texts to his mother after the fight, Van Oosten wrote he started choking his wife and couldn’t stop. As she lay dead in the bedroom, he didn’t admit what he had done to a relative who dropped by. He said she had gone out after the pair had argued.
"He said the argument was due to Lisa looking at his Facebook account on his phone and that she had viewed some old pictures that he should have deleted," Crown attorney Terry McComb told court.
By the time his mother called 911 and RCMP arrived just before 8:30 p.m. that night, Van Oosten had already told his mother he had killed his wife and expected to be locked up for the rest of his life.
"The court is no doubt mindful that this is a senseless and tragic loss of life. While the sentencing process can provide justice, nothing can be done to return Lisa Van Oosten to her family and her friends. What the court must do now is decide how to reckon with Lisa Van Oosten’s killer," McComb said.
"Strangulation is itself an intimate act. It requires more than a momentary impulse to execute, and it entails looking a person in the face and taking their life from them while they struggle to live," she said.
As some of the couple’s family and friends watched from the courtroom’s public gallery, Van Oosten chose not to speak when given the opportunity to do so.
His lawyer said "he never imagined he would be where he is today."
"Mr. Van Oosten knows nothing will ever be the same for anyone involved. Mr. Van Oosten wants the court and his family to know that he’s deeply sorry for what occurred on that day. Mr. Van Oosten says there’s not a day that goes by where he won’t regret his actions."
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