Cody Don Saunders went to Karen Letniaks home looking for sex, but when his night didnt end the way he wanted, he flew into a rage that ended in her death, a judge was told Monday.
Saunders, 27, was convicted of second-degree murder following a jury trial in December. Now, prosecutors are arguing his mandatory life sentence should come with no chance of parole for at least 16 years.
Saunders admitted he had strangled Letniak, but argued at trial he was in the grip of a cocaine-induced psychosis that removed his intent to kill.
Letniak was found dead and naked on the floor in the front entrance of her Riverton Avenue home Oct. 18, 2019.
Saunders testified at trial he had been drinking and snorting cocaine at a Winnipeg strip club when he called Letniak, a sex worker, and arranged to meet at her house. Saunders told jurors he was unable to maintain an erection.
Saunders said he and Letniak consumed cocaine on and off during the night. After experiencing both auditory and visual hallucinations, he became angry and found himself strangling Letniak for a matter of seconds.
I let go of her when she stopped moving, he testified.
An autopsy concluded Letniak had been strangled for at least four minutes, both by hand and with a ligature.
Prosecutor Renee Lagimodiere told Queens Bench Justice David Kroft at a sentencing hearing Monday he could draw a reasonable inference that (Saunders) killed her in a rage because she did not fulfill his sexual needs.
The evidence makes clear this was all about Cody Saunders, the Crown said.
Sex trade workers are particularly vulnerable to acts of violence, Lagimodiere said.
This was a brutal, violent and cruel killing, she said. Whatever (Letniak) consented to earlier that night, she didnt consent to being strangled to death.
Ninety minutes after killing Letniak, Saunders called 911, claiming he was involved in a domestic situation with his girlfriend. He was later shot in the shoulder after he lunged at police with a knife, in what was described by prosecutors as an attempt to commit suicide by cop.
Defence lawyer Joshua Rogala urged Kroft not to increase Saunderss period of parole ineligibility beyond the minimum 10 years, arguing several other cases involving more serious circumstances resulted in similar periods of ineligibility.
Rogala said the Crowns argument Saunders killed Letniak out of sexual frustration was speculative.
Saunders had little memory of his actions, but maintained he did not harm her out of anger or rage, Rogala said. This was not motivated by any sexual reasons.
Victim impact statements provided to court described Letniak, 48, as a compassionate woman who was just starting to find her way in life, and had plans to move to Mexico to work as a yoga and fitness instructor.
She had a kind soul and would do anything for her family and friends, said a sister.
It saddens me knowing you were the last one to see her alive, the woman told Saunders. I hope you understand what you have taken away from myself , her family and friends.
Kroft will sentence Saunders at a later date.
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.