December 16, 2019

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No parole for 15 years in Christine Wood murder

Calling his actions vicious, brutal and unrelenting, a Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench judge has sentenced Brett Overby to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years for the 2016 murder of Christine Wood.

Wood was a "vibrant, young Indigenous woman... with dreams and aspirations that were clearly within her grasp," Justice Chris Martin said Tuesday in Winnipeg. "I can see no genuine explanation for why (Overby) felt Ms. Wood had to die."

Overby, 32, was convicted of second-degree murder after a trial this spring.

Given a chance to address court Tuesday, prior to being sentenced, Overby said: "I really do feel terrible for what happened to Christine... I never meant for any of this to happen."

Christine Wood used her mother’s cell phone to take a selfie before she went out for the evening. Her body was found 10 months later in a shallow grave.

Christine Wood used her mother’s cell phone to take a selfie before she went out for the evening. Her body was found 10 months later in a shallow grave.

Overby killed Wood just hours after the two met the night of Aug. 19, 2016, after connecting on the dating website Plenty of Fish.

Jurors heard Overby and Wood, 21, had drinks at a Winnipeg restaurant before returning to Overby's home on Burrows Avenue. Overby testified he later "blacked out" after Wood lunged at him with a knife, and had no memory of killing Wood in his basement.

Martin said he did not accept Overby's testimony.

Overby slit Wood's throat and stabbed her multiple times in the chin, neck and back. Wood also suffered a large fracture to her skull and a fractured femur.

He wrapped the body in plastic and buried it in a shallow grave in a farmer's field in the Rural Municipality of Springfield. The body was not discovered until June 1, 2017.

Christine Wood's mother Melinda fights back tears as her husband George reads a statement at a press conference after Christine's killer was sentenced Tuesday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Christine Wood's mother Melinda fights back tears as her husband George reads a statement at a press conference after Christine's killer was sentenced Tuesday.

Overby returned home and used a mop and bleach to clean up what were described during the trial as "extensive areas of bloodletting." The next day, he entertained his ex-girlfriend at his home.

"Within a day, he easily sloughed off what he had done," Martin said.

Overby deleted his Plenty of Fish account the following month, but created a new one within three months, writing "Only the people who make me mad will see me angry... I can be your best friend or your worst enemy."

In a police interview, prior to being charged with Wood's murder, Overby showed "no inkling of alarm or concern," and denied ever having met her, the judge said.

On Tuesday, Martin had Overby placed in the jury seating area, so people in the gallery could see him as Crown attorney Chantal Boutin read aloud nine victim-impact statements.

Winnipeg Police interview Brett Overby on January 25, 2017, about the disappearance of Christine Wood.

SUPPLIED

Winnipeg Police interview Brett Overby on January 25, 2017, about the disappearance of Christine Wood.

"My only daughter... dumped in a shallow grave like you were garbage," Melinda Wood wrote in her victim-impact statement. "It broke me. I have to live with this horrible loss forever."

Wendell Wood wrote of plunging into drug and alcohol abuse to numb the pain of his sister's death.

"I have lost my way," he wrote. "I hate (Overby). I can't even call him a human."

At a post-sentencing news conference, Wood's father, George, described his only daughter as a happy and shy young woman who enjoyed school. "Education meant a lot to our daughter."

In August 2016, George and Melinda Wood had travelled to Winnipeg from their home in Oxford House (Bunibonibee Cree Nation) for a relative's medical appointment. They were staying in a hotel with Wood the night she went missing.

Brett Overby's basement at 341 Burrows Avenue during the forensic search. Christine Wood's blood was found on in several areas of the house.

SUPPLIED

Brett Overby's basement at 341 Burrows Avenue during the forensic search. Christine Wood's blood was found on in several areas of the house.

George Wood said she was reported missing the following day, but it took Winnipeg police another four days to issue a media release. This "rocky start" aside, police "did a very good job ringing our daughter's killer to justice," he said. "We are very thankful for their efforts."

"If there was one thing I could say to my daughter: I miss you. I wish this didn't happen to you. If only I was there to protect you... There will always be a missing piece of my heart."

Bunibonibee Chief Tim Muskego said Wood's murder has taken a heavy toll on the community of 3,000, located 575 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

"Everyone knows each other," he said. "It was hard, and it's still hard."

The case highlights the need to put resources in place to educate young Indigenous women about the dangers they can face living in the city, said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, manager of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls liaison unit for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

"Many of our young girls haven't experienced life outside their home communities," she said.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

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