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.

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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.

HANDOUT PHOTO
Karissa Boudreau: loved singing to her CDs

CNS

HANDOUT PHOTO Karissa Boudreau: loved singing to her CDs

Moments later, when the little girl's heaving gasps stopped, Penny 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.

On Friday, Boudreau pleaded guilty to 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 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.

ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Penny Boudreau: guilty of second-degree murder

CP

ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan Penny Boudreau: guilty of second-degree murder

"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 in the car, her mother placed a call to Macumber, telling him the girl had gone missing.

Scovil told the court that Boudreau then 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 discarded articles of clothing and a sandal belonging to Karissa in a garbage at a local swimming pool, which were discovered later.

Two days after Karissa's reported disappearance, a tearful Boudreau appeared before TV cameras, begging Karissa to come home. At the time, she said 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 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 said. "Macumber was telling her that he was leaving her."

The neighbours said it sounded like 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." the statement says.

Scovil told the court an undercover 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 convinced Boudreau they "could possibly make her 'problem' go away." She 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.

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."

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.

Paul Boudreau wondered why Penny Boudreau didn't simply allow their daughter to live with him or another family member.

"I mean, the options were there, and for a parent to do something, that decision -- I still just can't comprehend it," he said.

 

-- The Canadian Press


The tragic timeline

Key dates in the murder of 12-year-old Karissa Boudreau:

Jan. 27, 2008: Karissa Boudreau is reported missing from Bridgewater, N.S. Her mother, Penny Boudreau, tells police she went into a grocery store after having an argument with her daughter in the parking lot, and when she returned, the young girl was gone.

Jan. 29: Penny Boudreau holds a news conference to make an emotional plea for her daughter to come home.

Feb. 1: Penny Boudreau holds a second news conference, desperately pleading for the Grade 6 student to return home or for anyone with information to come forward.

Feb. 5-6: RCMP divers search the LaHave River, which runs behind the grocery store where Karissa was reported missing.

Feb. 9: A passerby discovers a body buried in the snow near the LaHave River.

Feb. 14: Police say an autopsy has identified the body as that of Karissa Boudreau, and they say her death is a homicide.

June 12: Police arrest Penny Boudreau and charge her with first-degree murder.

Jan. 30, 2009: Penny Boudreau pleads guilty to second-degree murder and a statement of facts is read describing how she strangled her daughter and dumped her on a riverbank.