A man said his life fell apart two years ago when his father killed his mother before their east end house blew up in a gas explosion.
"It is impossible to ignore that I must face future hardships without being able to consult my most trusted adviser. I must celebrate future successes without my greatest cheerleader," Adam Hughes said while reading a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for his father, Robert Hughes.
Robert Hughes was found guilty last year of second-degree murder in the death of Betty Hughes by a 12-person jury after nearly two weeks of trial.
Adam Hughes, who spoke through tears, remembered his mother for her kindness and dedication to her children in his statement to the court. He said when he fractured his femur, she bought every pair of pants in a store trying to find him something more comfortable.
In the aftermath of Betty Hughes’ death in October 2019, Adam Hughes said he lost four months of his life and doesn’t remember very much from that time period.
"I have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours working with professionals to try and navigate my post-mom world … it may well be the reason I am able to speak these words today," he said.
"To survive, I have reluctantly come to accept that I will never be the same person I once was. Pre-murder Adam and post-murder Adam might as well be two different people."
Ashley, the couple’s other child, said in a victim impact statement read by Adam Hughes that losing her mother was life-altering.
"I am a different person than before my mom’s death," she stated, adding she struggles with anxiety, panic attacks and problems with her memory.
"My children are very young, they will grow up without both grandparents. The thought of having to explain to them why they don’t have a grandma and grandpa has kept me up at night."
Robert Hughes wore a black suit and walked stiffly to sit in the accused’s box, flanked by Sheriff’s officers.
On Oct. 22, 2019, Brandon firefighters responded to the east end property after it blew up, the court heard over the course of the six-day trial in December. When they arrived, the walls of the house were blown out and Manitoba Hydro had to turn off the natural gas line.
Brandon Police Service Const. Travis Foster said on the first day of the trial that Betty Hughes was found inside the destroyed house with multiple cuts and lying in a pool of blood.
Firefighters then saw Robert Hughes with a noose around his neck in the destroyed house, the court heard. He was transported to Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, where he was arrested by Brandon police on Oct. 25.
A pathologist testified Betty Hughes had more than a dozen injuries when she died, but the ultimate cause of death was blood loss from an 11.7-centimetre wound that extended from her eyebrow across her temple and into her ear.
He estimated Betty Hughes would have died of blood loss minutes after the cut. He was unable to tell where the person who inflicted the wound was standing, or how it happened, just that it was caused by a "weapon."
Robert Hughes testified in his own defence during the trial. He alleged there was a prolonged struggle with his wife in the kitchen of their house, which he described as "World War III." At the time, the two were in a strained relationship.
Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft recommended Robert Hughes spend 17 years in prison before parole eligibility. He said Robert Hughes showed no regard for anyone around him when he cut the gas line to his house in a suicide attempt that ultimately caused a "massive" explosion.
"He didn’t care about the consequences and his future risk and recklessness must be a concern for the court and the public," he said. "We say he showed no remorse."
Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds recommended 10 years in prison before Robert Hughes can apply for parole, saying he acted in self-defence during the fight between the couple.
"Mr. Hughes recognizes that he could have behaved differently, that he had other options … but we all do that in reflection when we’re in a position in which we look back on things that transpired," he said.
Speaking to the court while standing in the accused’s box, Robert Hughes said his wife was a great person and a great mother who was loved.
"I died two and a half years ago, it’s just my body that they won’t allow to die. I miss her, I’m still trying to make sense of what happened," he told the court, saying it was the worst possible outcome.
"If I had done something differently that day, that week, that year … the worst possible outcome is on me," he said, his voice breaking with emotion.
Second-degree murder has a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison, Justice Scott Abel said after Robert Hughes was found guilty. The sentencing hearing was held to determine how long Robert Hughes has to spend in prison before he can apply for parole, which is not guaranteed.
Abel is scheduled to deliver his sentence in early June.
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