Life in prison for Loretta Saunders' killers
A Halifax courtroom erupted in cheers when a judge sentenced Loretta Saunders' killers to life in prison.
Blake Leggette, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, won't be eligible for parole for 25 years.
Victoria Henneberry, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, will be eligible for parole in 10 years. The Crown said that, while Henneberry's actions were "deplorable," there's no evidence of her physical involvement in Saunders' murder.
Both Legette and Henneberry apologized for their actions in court. Before reading her victim impact statement, Saunders' sister Delilah screamed at them.
"You stole my sister," she yelled.
In handing down the life sentences, Judge Josh Arnold of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court said Leggette and Henneberry’s “treachery” has “polluted” many lives.
More than a dozen victim impact statements were read out in the courtroom packed with Saunders' family members, friends and supporters. Many of them were dressed in purple, Saunders' favourite colour.
Saunders' mother sobbed as she spoke about the pain her daughter's death caused her family.
"Why did they have to kill her?" Miriam Saunders said. She said her daughter was "filled with love" and only wanted to help others.
"My heart constantly aches,” she said.
Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuit woman, was killed on Feb. 13, 2014, when she went to collect rent from Leggette and Henneberry. The pair had been subletting a room in Saunders' apartment, but didn't have the money.
In journal entries he started writing shortly after his arrest, Legette admitted to killing Saunders. The journal was confiscated by jail guards during a search of his cell.
According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Legette and Henneberry dumped Saunders' body in Salisbury, N.B., and then drove to Ontario. They used Saunders' cell phone to send text messages to her boyfriend and family, pretending to be her. They also used Saunders' bank card before they were arrested.
Saunders, a student at Saint Mary's University, was writing her thesis on Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women at the time of her death.
Outside court, her father Clayton Saunders said he was angry about Henneberry’s sentence.
"Ten years for a cold-blooded murderer, blood on their hands from my daughter and she got 10 years," he said.
"Now what kind of justice is that?"
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl and The Canadian Press