Arts & Life
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This article was published 30/1/2009 (4259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRIDGEWATER, N.S. - In her final moments, Karissa Boudreau dug her small hands into the frozen ground and struggled as her mother tightened the twine wrapped around her neck.
"Mommy, don't," were the last words she spoke.
The 12-year-old girl was staring into the face of her mother as Penny Boudreau pinned her only child down with her knees and pulled harder on the rough rope.
Moments later, when the little girl's heaving gasps stopped, Boudreau loaded her lifeless body onto the floor of her car, discarded the twine in an empty coffee cup, and drove to the icy banks of the LaHave River to dump Karissa's remains.
The chilling details were read out in court in Bridgewater, N.S., on Friday as Boudreau admitted to killing her daughter just over a year ago on Jan. 27, 2008, in a bid to salvage her relationship with her boyfriend.
Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans and weeping throughout the hearing, Boudreau, 34, was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 20 years from the date of her arrest. Under the so-called faint-hope clause, she can apply for parole after 15 years.
"You can never call yourself mother," said Justice Margaret Stewart, glancing up at Boudreau. "The words, 'Mommy, don't' ... are there to haunt you for the rest of your life."
Boudreau was originally charged last June with first-degree murder in the killing of her daughter, who she reported missing the night of her death as a snowstorm swept into the region.
Boudreau pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder under a plea bargain.
After sentencing, Boudreau stood up briefly to address the court.
"I'm sorry," she said in a meek whisper.
An agreed statement of facts, read into the court record, confirmed that Boudreau's boyfriend, Vernon Macumber, had told Boudreau that it was either him or her daughter if their relationship was to survive.
"Boudreau said she would do anything for Vernon and the thought of losing him was harder than the thought of losing her daughter," read Crown attorney Paul Scovil.
Speaking outside the court, Scovil explained Macumber's ultimatum to reporters.
"Our understanding was that he indicated to her, 'We have to do something within our family, you have to either choose her or me,' " he said.
"We were satisfied he did not mean ... that she was to kill Karissa."
In a victim impact statement, the girl's biological father, Paul Boudreau, wrote: "The centre of my happiness is shattered and hopes and dreams wiped away in one selfish act."
The court heard that on the night Karissa was murdered, she and her mother drove to a local grocery store.
While Karissa waited unharmed in the car, her mother placed a call to Macumber, telling him the girl had gone missing.
Scovil told the court that as it grew dark Boudreau drove with her daughter to a nearby road, where the girl was told to get out and the struggle ensued.
As she dragged the girl from the car to dump the body, Karissa's jeans and underwear, with a Winnie the Pooh design, were pulled down. Boudreau thought that might suggest her daughter had been sexually assaulted, so she left them that way even though there was no such assault, details that elicited sobs and gasps from the public gallery.
Boudreau later discarded some articles of clothing and a sandal belonging to Karissa in a garbage can at a local swimming pool, which were discovered days later.
Two days after Karissa's reported disappearance, the tearful mother appeared before TV cameras, begging Karissa to come home. At the time, she said she had left the girl in her car after they had argued in the parking lot of the grocery store. When she returned, the girl was gone.
On two separate occasions, Boudreau appealed to the public for help in finding the girl as search crews scoured the nearby river and wooded areas.
Karissa's frozen remains were found on the riverbank Feb. 9 by a nine-year-old boy who thought he saw toes poking out of the snow.
Police had concerns about Boudreau's involvement in the murder and they were heightened on Feb. 11 when neighbours reported details of a disturbance in her apartment.
"Macumber ... was agitated and throwing things around. He and Boudreau were going back and forth in the apartment," the statement says. "Macumber was telling her that he was leaving her."
The neighbours said it sounded like water was running and that Boudreau was in the tub as Macumber told her he wouldn't help her.
"Macumber was saying over and over, 'Penn, how could you do this,' that he was disgusted with her. Macumber was saying: 'Penn, Penn, c'mon speak Penn, how could you do this, how could you do this, I don't understand, you got me involved,' " the statement says.
Scovil told the court an elaborate, ruse over the next few months led to Boudreau's arrest.
Court was told how undercover agents posing as members of a crime syndicate befriended Macumber, who denied being involved with the murder. Macumber said he had suspicions, however, that Boudreau was involved and he was staying close to her to avoid being implicated in the crime.
Undercover operators eventually convinced Boudreau they "could possibly make her 'problem' go away."
Boudreau admitted to the crime, going so far as to re-enact the action on one of the undercover agents and taking them to the scene of the murder. She also wrote a detailed account of what happened the night Karissa died.
Crown attorney Denise Smith said Boudreau's crime "defies every meaning we hold dear of what it means to be a mother."
Outside the courtroom, Paul Boudreau said Penny Boudreau had shed "crocodile tears" over the death of her daughter.
"That's all it's ever been," he said. "That's all it ever will be."
At the time her body was found, RCMP said investigators believed Karissa knew her killer.
Karissa, a Grade 6 student at Bridgewater Elementary School, was described as a typical kid, who loved singing along to Hilary Duff and the Spice Girls CDs while dancing in her room.
Her disappearance shook the town of Bridgewater, a town of 8,000 near Nova Scotia's South Shore, which held a memorial service for Karissa on the anniversary of her disappearance.
Though she was born in Ontario, Penny Boudreau did most of her growing up in Clark's Harbour, the largest community on Cape Sable Island - a spit of land at the edge of Nova Scotia's southwestern tip.
Paul Boudreau wondered why Penny Boudreau didn't simply allow their daughter to live with him or another family member.
"Communities, families have been torn apart by this," he said. "I can't call it anything other than a senseless act. I mean, the options were there, and for a parent to do something, that decision - I still just can't comprehend it."
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