Youth gets life in prison for Courtepatte death
Updated Thu. Oct. 18 2007 8:07 PM ET
The Canadian Press
EDMONTON -- The mother of a 13-year-old girl who was raped twice and bludgeoned to death cheered in court Thursday and cried tears of joy as the man who helped kill her daughter was sentenced to life in prison.
The 19-year-old man sexually assaulted and beat Nina Courtepatte with a sledgehammer in April 2005 after she was lured from West Edmonton Mall with the promise of a party. He was 17 at the time.
The defence wanted him sentenced as a youth, but provincial court Judge Janet Franklin said the teen's long history of severe mental problems and violence make it unlikely that he can safely return to the community after committing such a horrendous, brutal crime.
"A youth sentence would not have sufficient length of time to provide meaningful and appropriate skilled assistance to help the man make progress in overcoming his almost 20 years of mental health issues,'' Franklin said of the man who doctors say is devoid of empathy and shows strong signs of being a psychopath.
"The doctors say that maybe in his 40s, 50s or 60s he will become insightful. It is opined that he may never be.''
The man, who appeared in court wearing a blue suit and leg shackles, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for the crime. He has since apologized, but doctors doubt the sincerity of the gesture.
He will not be eligible for parole for 10 years.
Franklin said the slightly built, bookish-looking young man exhibited mental problems starting at the age of four. He once threatened to kill a Grade 2 classmate.
He grew up in a home filled with physical, sexual and emotional abuse and sought escape in a fantasy world full of violence where he dreamed of becoming a superhero or a professional wrestler.
When his mental problems grew worse, his mother handed him over to Alberta Children's Services after she found many knives in his room. He was 12 at the time.
"From the age of four he could not be parented, managed, educated or counselled effectively with the most intensive one-on-one assistance available,'' Franklin said.
"Violence offers a sense of power and release for him.''
Courtepatte's mother, Peacha Atkinson, hugged friends and family inside court, flashing a rare smile as she savoured the judge's decision to sentence the man as an adult.
But outside court she said the pain of her daughter's death still lingers.
"I am glad the judge has seen through his lies,'' she said. "I can never move on.''
Even though the man was sentenced as an adult he can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act pending a 30 day time period where he can file an appeal of the sentence.
His lawyer, Rick Stroppel, said his client is considering such an appeal.
A court hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 21 to hear submissions on where the man should serve his sentence.
The man is one of five people charged in Nina's death.
A girl who was also 17 at the time was found guilty of manslaughter.
The Crown is appealing her conviction and she has yet to be sentenced.
One adult, Joseph Laboucan of Fort St. John, B.C., has been convicted of first-degree murder in the case. His co-accused, Michael Briscoe of Edmonton, was acquitted.
Laboucan is appealing his conviction, while the Crown is appealing Briscoe's acquittal.
The trial of a second teenaged girl has been delayed because she fired her lawyer on the opening day of her trial.
Atkinson said with the other trial and two appeals pending her family still has more pain to endure.
But Thursday's sentencing gives her a sense of hope.
"I am really glad what he got today,'' she said. "I know I can breathe a little easier that another one has been dealt with.''