The murder of 18-year-old Erin Chorney by Michael Bridges in 2002 was a Brandon family’s worst nightmare and her loss is still felt today, a Brandon courtroom heard on Wednesday.
Darcy Chorney, Erin’s father, testified on the seventh day of Bridges’ faint hope clause hearing in Court of Queen’s Bench.
"It ate away at me mentally, physically, emotionally, in a lot of ways … think of your worst nightmare and times it by 100," he said during a morning of emotional testimony to Crown attorney Mark Lafreniere.
Lafreniere and fellow Crown attorney Joel Myskiw called several members of Erin’s family to testify as part of their case.
Bridges is asking a jury of nine women and three men to be allowed to apply for parole early under the now-repealed faint hope clause of the Criminal Code. Bridges was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder in 2005 and has so far served 17 years in prison at Stony Mountain Institution.
Erin was born on Sept. 30, 1983 and had two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. Darcy said she was an "amazing child" and loved sports and being active.
Darcy said the time when Erin was missing, after Bridges killed her and buried her in another person’s grave, was extremely difficult. He still had to go to work and continue on with his life while looking for Erin.
Bridges sat in the prisoners’ box listening with his head down while Erin’s family members testified on the witness stand.
When Darcy was told by Brandon police Erin was dead nearly two years after she went missing, he said he went into shock.
"Up until that day, I prayed every night that she was coming home," he said.
"And to have to relive this again. I think if Michael Bridges was truly sorry he would just stay in jail until his time is up and then quietly, without us knowing about it, go into parole or whatever."
Debbie Chorney, Erin’s mother, told the court the family wasn’t initially concerned when Erin didn’t come home the night she went missing, but called police and issued a missing persons report a few days later. They put up posters across Canada and into the United States.
"Just anxiousness, trying to do everything possible we could to locate her … It was a time of hope, but a time of doubt because in my heart I knew she would have been home for my sister’s wedding and my birthday and a lot of things like that — but we still tried to have hope," Debbie said.
The family is still mourning her death, she said.
Erin’s sister, Lesli, also testified, on Wednesday morning. She was nine years old when her older sister was killed and said they were very close.
The two had dinner with their mother, Debbie, before Erin got a call and told them she would be going out for coffee, Lesli said.
"We lived in an apartment building … we walked out together. Every time you say goodbye to someone you don’t make a big deal of it, you don’t always say ‘I love you’ and you don’t always hug the person, but that day we did," Lesli said through tears.
"I remember the car outside waiting for her and her going into it and I remember waving goodbye, and that was the last time I saw my sister."
Erin made people better versions of themselves, Lesli said, and her presence is always missed by her family.
"Erin was more than the tragedy that happened to her. She was my sister and she was a daughter and a cousin and a niece," she said.
The faint hope clause was repealed from the Criminal Code in December 2011, but Bridges can still apply under it as he was convicted before it was removed.
The clause, otherwise known as S.745.6 of the Canadian Criminal Code, was a statutory provision that allowed offenders sentenced to life imprisonment with a "parole eligibility period of greater than 15 years to apply for early parole once they have served 15 years."
Both the Crown attorneys and defence lawyers Ryan Amy and Carley Mahoney are scheduled to give their closing statements to the jury today.
The jury is then set to be sequestered and go into deliberations.
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