MINNEDOSA — The families of both a woman charged with manslaughter and the man killed erupted into an emotional exchange in the gallery of a courtroom Tuesday morning after a judge sentenced her to 12 years in prison.
"That’s not enough!" the mother of the victim yelled out in Minnedosa provincial court following the judge’s decision. "She should get 30 years!"
"That’s my daughter!" the mother of Kelsie LeSergent yelled in response, standing up and trying to walk toward them before being held back by other family and friends. "They have no right to say anything, my daughter is going away for something she didn’t do. … Shame on you!"
"That was my son," the victim’s mother replied before breaking down, sobbing.
LeSergent, 21, pleaded guilty earlier this year to manslaughter for her role in the death of 62-year-old Leonard Maksymic, who was shot and killed in his home on Nov. 25, 2017.
LeSergent and two co-accused conspired to carry out a home invasion of Maksymic’s Neepawa residence because they wanted drugs, Judge Shawna Hewitt-Michta summarized, and they believed Maksymic — who was disabled — was in possession of morphine.
The group took a loaded firearm and drove from Killarney to Maksymic’s home where they kicked in his door, Hewitt-Michta said. The accused said Maksymic advanced toward them when he was shot in the chest.
Neighbours later found Maksymic in a pool of his own blood at the doorway of his bedroom.
"Mr. Maksymic suffered a violent death alone in his home in the late evening or early morning hours," Hewitt-Michta said. "We will never know for sure the precise details of what transpired in his home that night, but the evidence suggests he was utterly ambushed and got no farther than his bedroom doorway before the blast from a sawed-off shotgun killed him."
Hewitt-Michta accepted that the offence was connected to LeSergent’s drug addiction, she said. In LeSergent’s pre-sentence report, it was noted that she was using methamphetamine by the time she was 16 years old.
To her credit, LeSergent accepted responsibility for her actions by entering a guilty plea, Hewitt-Michta said, and she has also managed to take part in some meaningful programming while in custody.
However, the aggravating factors of the offence were extensive, Hewitt-Michta said — LeSergent and her co-accused invaded a vulnerable person’s home with a dangerous and prohibited firearm, their actions were premeditated and resulted in the loss of life — and therefore the focus of sentencing should be deterrence and denunciation.
"Ms. LeSergent’s penalty must be severe enough to deter her from ever participating in such an escapade again," Hewitt-Michta said. "It should strike fear in the hearts and minds of others who might contemplate a home-invasion style robbery involving a firearm, and certainly the discharge of a firearm."
The Crown asked the court to consider a sentence of 12 to 15 years, while defence counsel argued a sentence of seven to 10 years would be more appropriate.
Hewitt-Michta endorsed the Crown’s recommendation and sentenced LeSergent to 12 years in prison.
After a credit for time served, LeSergent has a little more than 10 years going forward.
Outside the courtroom, the victim’s brother, Ron Maksymic, shook his head following the decision and the scene that unfolded.
RCMP was called to the courthouse following the confrontation, and most of LeSergent’s supporters — including her mother — left the courthouse shortly after.
"(LeSergent’s) mother is sitting there crying because she’s been put away for 10 years. Well, you know what? She still gets to visit her, gets to talk to her, she still gets to see her when she gets out of jail. We’ll never get my brother back," Maksymic said. "They say I’m supposed to have closure. Closure’s a myth, you know why? Because I can’t go home and see my brother."
Maksymic said he understood the judge’s reasoning, but he said he didn’t feel LeSergent was remorseful, or that she deserved credit for her troubled upbringing and drug addiction.
"I’m just so tired of all the excuses … it’s sickening," Maksymic said. "(Leonard) worked hard his whole life. From 2011 he had four strokes and was crippled. I don’t get it … he would have given the shirt off his back for anybody, and I mean anybody."
Defence lawyer Andrew Synyshyn said LeSergent was "shaken up" and a little upset following the judge’s decision.
"No sentence is really ever going to be fitting in a lot of ways for someone who’s been killed, nothing can bring the victim back. At the same time, I don’t think at any point the accused is really happy about a sentence either," Synyshyn said. "There’s always that balancing act."
Although Hewitt-Michta leaned toward the Crown’s recommendation for a sentence, Synyshyn said her decision was "thorough, well-reasoned and touched on all the important points."
When asked about the possibility of an appeal, Synyshyn said he would be taking some time to consider the judge’s comments but ultimately it was his client’s decision.
LeSergent’s co-accused, who are facing charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and accessory after the fact to murder, both have yet to enter pleas in relation to this offence and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing in February.
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