Son who murdered mother to serve youth sentence

A Winnipeg man who bludgeoned his mother to death in her bed when he was 16 will not serve a life sentence in prison, a judge has ruled.

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A Winnipeg man who bludgeoned his mother to death in her bed when he was 16 will not serve a life sentence in prison, a judge has ruled.

“There is no doubt the offence was extremely violent and brutal,” King’s Bench Justice Anne Turner said Tuesday, but prosecutors did not satisfy her that the circumstances of the case demanded the now-20-year-old be sentenced as an adult for the crime.

The man stood trial for first-degree murder in the March 2019 slaying, but was convicted by a jury in June 2022 of the lesser offence of second-degree murder.

Turner sentenced him to the maximum youth sentence of seven years custody, three years of which are to be served under conditional supervision in the community.

As the judge delivered her sentence, a gasp could be heard in the court gallery, which was filled with more than two dozen family members and supporters.

If sentenced as an adult to mandatory life in prison, the man would have been eligible for parole after serving seven years in custody.

The Free Press is not naming the 51-year-old victim, as it would identify the accused, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Under the act, youth are considered to be of “diminished moral blameworthiness,” compared to adults. To persuade a court to impose an adult sentence, prosecutors must successfully “rebut” that presumption and satisfy a judge a youth sentence is of insufficient length to hold an offender accountable.

Jurors heard evidence at trial the woman, who shared custody of her son with her ex-husband, had been off work for several months due to a physical injury and mental health issues.

The night before the killing, the man bought his mother flowers and made her dinner — all part of a ruse, prosecutors alleged, to divert attention from himself.

Prosecutors said the woman was already dead when her son left home at 9:08 a.m. to take their dog for an unscheduled visit to pet daycare and other errands meant to provide him with an alibi. The man returned home at 10:38 a.m. and five minutes later called 911.

Security video from neighbouring houses showed no one else leaving or entering the house during the teen’s absence.

He beat his mother at least a dozen times on the head, with possibly a crowbar. The woman’s arms were broken as she tried in vain to fend off the attack.

After killing his mother, the man poured bleach over her head, cleaned himself up, disposed of the murder weapon and his bloody clothing, then went outside to change the air filter in his mother’s car. Over the next 90 minutes, he sent numerous texts to his mother’s cellphone and others, while running “errands.”

Thousands of text messages uncovered by police, a sampling of which was provided to jurors at trial, showed the woman was dependant on her son for cooking, shopping, cleaning and other chores, beginning when he was as young as 14.

Prosecutors argued the man’s calm and cool efforts to cover up his involvement in the killing, including an attempt to divert suspicion to one of his mother’s co-workers, showed adult sophistication, not teenage immaturity.

However, Turner said the Crown’s theory the man killed his mother as a response to her “smothering” treatment was itself evidence he did not have the reasoning maturity of an adult.

“Other than this crime, the evidence demonstrates he was a normal high school teenager,” Turner said. “From the evidence, the only possible explanation for the crime was the household demands (the victim) put on (him).

“The mature response would have been to decide to move out,” she said. “The immature and unreasonable response was killing (the victim).”

“The mature response would have been to decide to move out… The immature and unreasonable response was killing (the victim).”–King’s Bench Justice Anne Turner

While the man’s actions after the killing showed sophistication and composure, “when I consider all the other circumstances, I cannot find that the Crown has shown a sufficient level of moral blameworthiness to hold (him) accountable as an adult.”

At trial, many family members were clear in their support of the accused and their belief he was not responsible for his mother’s slaying.

At that time, Turner kicked one family supporter out of court after it was revealed she had given the finger to a Crown attorney, and dressed down two family members who had been “staring down” the same Crown attorney and an assistant.

“Grow up,” Turner told the men. “This is a murder trial. Tensions are high enough as they are. If you think staring people down in the court room is in any way effective or helpful, get over yourselves.”

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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