A Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation woman faces more time in jail as the result of killing a young woman in 2009.
Justice Brian MacKenzie sentenced Wendy DeBruin, 39, to four and a half years in jail, minus time served, followed by three years of probation. DeBruin has already served 16 months in jail, which will count for 32 months toward the sentence, meaning she has 24 months left to serve.
DeBruin was charged with second-degree murder after she stabbed Emma Wilson, 20, twice on July 25, 2009. Some time after a preliminary hearing, DeBruin pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
MacKenzie delivered the sentence in the Powell River courthouse on Thursday, January 13. The courtroom was packed with family and friends of both the victim and DeBruin. Many people cried throughout the day as Wilson’s family members read victim-impact statements.
DeBruin addressed the court and audience directly, in a heart-wrenching speech during which she fought back tears. “There aren’t words to describe the amount of remorse I feel. I think of Emma everyday and I think I will for the rest of my life.”
DeBruin, who has two sons aged 16 and 17, said as a mother she can’t begin to imagine the pain Wilson’s mother feels. “I ask that you don’t feel that pain when you look at my family,” she said. “It is not their doing. It is mine.”
DeBruin said at times like these people look for a monster. “I can’t find that darkness inside,” she said. “I am not a monster. I am a loving, caring and giving person. If giving my life up would bring Emma back, I would do it.”
DeBruin’s speech followed victim-impact statements from Wilson’s grandmother, Bertha Treakle, and her sister, April Treakle.
Bertha, who said Wilson had lived with her and her husband for extended periods throughout her life, recounted the grief and suffering she and her husband experienced after Wilson died. “Her murder has haunted us,” she said. “We can’t be around Wendy DeBruin’s family because it causes us pain, but we see them all the time because it’s a small community.”
April read statements from Wilson’s mother, Deborah Wilson, as well as other close family members. They all spoke about the suffering they have experienced, the pain they have to live with and the tragedy of having Wilson’s life cut short. “It has been a trying time for me and my family,” said April. “We have suffered so much from Emma’s wrongful death.”
Crown Counsel Ian Tully-Barr addressed the overall feeling of sadness surrounding Wilson’s death. The impact it has had on the close-knit community adds to the tragedy, he said. He suggested an appropriate sentence would be in the range of four to eight years, because of the youth of the victim, the effect on the community and the brutality of the crime.
According to an agreed statement of facts, DeBruin arrived at a party in a Tla’Amin home around 10 am on July 24. She smoked a gram and a half of crack cocaine, along with drinking sambuca, vodka and gin. The party continued off and on all day and DeBruin came and went. Around 7 pm, Wilson arrived at the party. DeBruin and Wilson had a hostile relationship and the month had before engaged in a physical fight. Tension between them increased at the party. They began verbally fighting, then physically fighting. Punches were thrown and hair was pulled until finally the fight was broken up.
The owner of the house decided it was time to end the party and asked everyone to leave. Wilson left, then came back into the house to help clear the partygoers. She was particularly concerned about where DeBruin was and yelled at her from the bottom of the stairs on the first floor, ordering her to leave.
DeBruin came down the stairs. She had two knives from the kitchen in her hands, one a long bread knife and the other a paring knife. As DeBruin came down the stairs, Wilson stepped up on the stairs, saying, “Do you want some more? So you want to get beat up some more?” DeBruin stabbed Wilson simultaneously with both knives. The larger knife penetrated Wilson’s neck and chest area and cut her jugular vein. Wilson bled heavily, collapsed to the ground, rose and walked out into the driveway, then collapsed and died.
Witnesses, including the police, described DeBruin as being extremely intoxicated, not able to stand unassisted, slurring her words and being incoherent.
Defence attorneys Terry La Liberté and Kasandra Cronin told the court DeBruin had upgraded her education after a challenging childhood that included sexual abuse and neglect. She had two bachelor degrees, was intelligent and fought to overcome her substance-abuse problem. Yet her severe addiction to drugs and alcohol had prevented her from realizing her potential.