PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE — Roberta McIvor’s death traumatized an entire community and led to a series of disturbing rumours and theories which continue to linger.
Now, two Manitoba teens have been sentenced for their roles in a botched carjacking which ended with McIvor, 32, being decapitated at the side of a highway.
The girls, who were 17 and 15 at the time of the July 2011 incident, pleaded guilty earlier this year to manslaughter and car theft. They returned to court Thursday to learn their fate.
Provincial court Judge Heather Pullan gave the pair the maximum youth sentence of two years in jail and one year of community supervision. However, both were given credit for a year of pre-trial custody, leaving them with 12 months each in custody going forward.
“This is a case like no other,” Pullan said. “They left (McIvor) in circumstances that showed a callous disregard for her safety.”
Defence lawyers had asked for no further jail time for the accused, who have no prior criminal records. The Crown wanted two more years, saying Pullan didn’t have to give any credit for time served under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
It was an emotionally charged sentencing hearing that had to be moved from Sandy Bay First Nation to nearby Portage la Prairie because of serious threats made against the pair and their families.
Crown attorney Joyce Dalmyn said there were credible concerns that bullets would start flying if sheriffs tried to bring the teens back to Sandy Bay for sentencing.
She said many residents continue to believe the girls committed a “ritualistic murder” based on Satanic beliefs and have vowed revenge. There are also those who think there was a sexual element to the grisly crime.
Speculation ran wild because McIvor’s body was found nude, an apparent result of her clothes coming off as she was being inadvertently dragged by her own vehicle after the two girls stole it. It appears someone also moved her headless body off the side of the road and placed it in a posed position, arms crossed, without explanation, court was told.
Her death also occurred on the anniversary of Tim McLean’s beheading on board a Greyhound Bus near Portage — a fact, the Crown acknowledged, that raised even further suspicions in Sandy Bay.
“This was a very public death. This is an extraordinary case,” Dalmyn said in her submissions. “There is absolutely no evidence of any sexual interference.”
Justice officials are planning to take the unusual step of posting the agreed statement-of-facts on the case at the Sandy Bay community hall to ensure as many people as possible “know the truth,” said Dalmyn.
“There is no evidence they were aware of their involvement in Ms. McIvor’s death,” she said.
McIvor had passed out in her 2005 Chevy Impala following a night of drinking in Sandy Bay. The keys were still in the ignition.
The two teens — both drunk and possibly high on drugs — saw an opportunity for a “joyride” and jumped inside the vehicle, driving away with McIvor still out cold inside. After a few minutes, they decided to lighten the load.
“They decided Ms. McIvor should be pulled out of the vehicle and left at the side of the road,” Dalmyn said.
That’s when things went horribly wrong. McIvor became entangled in her own seatbelt as the girls sped off, the music blasting and the teens apparently unaware of what was happening. McIvor was dragged for approximately one kilometre until she was decapitated.
The girls continued on their way, ditching McIvor’s car only when it ran out of gas. They laughed and joked with other friends about how they’d stolen the car — but were reduced to tears hours later upon learning of the death they’d caused.
Dalmyn said many Sandy Bay residents have reported ongoing trauma and nightmares as a result of the case.
“I feel remorse and sadness every day. I want to say how truly sorry I am for your loss,” the sobbing older teen, now 18, said in reading a written statement aloud in court Thursday. “Since I’ve come into custody, I have realized my choices in the past have hurt your family and created a great loss in your lives.”
The younger killer, now 16, also spoke to McIvor’s family who sat stoically in the public gallery — many of them wearing T-shirts with the victim’s photo on them.
“I want to say I’m really sorry. I wish every day I could take it back,” she said.
A report on the aboriginal background of the two accused was a focal point of defence submissions. Both have grown up in troubling conditions, including poverty, abuse and neglect. The 18-year-old girl already has two young children, the first coming when she was just 13. The 16-year-old has nine siblings.
Both girls are planning to live in Winnipeg upon their release from jail and hope to upgrade their education, court was told.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 17, 2012