HALIFAX – The mother of Loretta Saunders has told a court that her heart constantly aches since the death of her daughter, whose remains were found inside a hockey bag along a highway in New Brunswick last year.
Through tears, Miriam Saunders delivered a victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing today, describing how her daughter overcame a life of drug abuse and sleeping on the streets to pursue a university education.
Both Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry, who have pleaded guilty in the 26-year-old woman’s death, told Nova Scotia Supreme Court that they were sorry for their actions.
The Crown and defence have issued a joint sentencing submission asking the judge to sentence Henneberry, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years.
Leggette has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, so he faces an automatic life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
Crown attorney Christine Driscoll told the court in Halifax that while Henneberry was a party to the murder, there is no admissible evidence she was involved in the planning or execution of it.
Still, Driscoll said Saunders’ death was a “completely pointless waste.”
Many supporters of Saunders and her family attended court wearing T-shirts that said, “Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.”
Two statements of fact have been submitted to the court that say Leggette and Henneberry were having financial difficulties soon after they moved into a sublet room in Saunders’ apartment, which they had found through a Kijiji ad in January 2014.
The documents say the two wanted to get out of Halifax, but they don’t say why.
“Mr. Leggette planned to kill Ms. Saunders, take her car and leave the province,” both statements say.
On Feb. 13, 2014, Saunders went to collect rent from the couple but they didn’t have the money, and Henneberry lied when she said she had lost her bank card and needed to contact her bank, according to one of the statements.
Leggette then grabbed Saunders by the throat and choked her, but the young woman fought back, managing to tear through the three plastic bags he pulled over her head.
At one point, Leggette and Saunders fell down. He twice hit her head on the floor and she stopped moving.
“Ms. Henneberry remained during the struggle,” the documents say.
Saunders’s body was found in a hockey bag on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway near Salisbury, N.B., about two weeks after she was reported missing.
Five days later, Leggette and Henneberry were arrested in Harrow, Ont., while driving Saunders’ car. They also had the woman’s phone, bank card and identification.
Saunders, an Inuit student from Labrador, was attending Saint Mary’s University and focusing her studies on missing and murdered aboriginal women at the time of her death.