An Edmonton woman who pleaded guilty on Monday to killing her boyfriend seemed confused, for a time, about exactly what she had agreed to.

At one point, the judge asked Loralyn Thom if she was pleading guilty to manslaughter, and Thom whispered "yes."

But later, when Court of Queen's Bench Justice Debra Yungwirth asked if Thom understood her guilty plea meant giving up her right to a trial, the mother of six began to cry.  

She turned to her own mother in the courtroom and wailed: "I don't know what to do."

Thom's emotionally distraught mother stood up and said, "We'll stand by you anyway, baby." 

In the end, with encouragement from her lawyer, Thom agreed to let her guilty plea stand.  

She admitted she viciously attacked her boyfriend, Rodney Petryk, 44, on a hot Sunday afternoon in June 2010.

Police found Petryk naked in his bed. He had been stabbed eight times, both of his lungs were punctured and one rib was broken. A cigarette butt was found in one of his wounds.

DNA on the butt matched Thom's DNA. There was a bent knife in the bathroom garbage can.  

The couple had both been drinking all day. Thom, now 48, had also taken sleeping pills and painkillers. An autopsy found that Petryk had a blood-alcohol level of five times the legal driving limit.  

According to a psychiatric report entered as an exhibit, after the murder Thom told her sister, "I'm going away for awhile, because I did a bad thing. Stuff got stupid. I killed him."

Long legal battle

This is the second time Thom has appeared in court charged with killing Petryk, the man she'd been romantically involved with for three months. In September 2012, a jury convicted her of second-degree murder, and she was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years.

But in November 2014, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned that conviction because of the judge's instructions to the jury. A new trial was ordered.

Lawyers for both sides agreed to reduce the second-degree murder charge to manslaughter.

Crown prosecutor Mark Huyser-Wierenga and defence lawyer Peter Royal made a joint submission for a life sentence. The lesser charge of manslaughter automatically reduced the parole eligibility period in half, from 14 years to seven.  

Thom has been in custody since the day she killed her boyfriend. With credit for time already served, she could apply for parole as early as next year.

The victim's mother told CBC News she's relieved she doesn't have to sit through another trial.

In a victim impact statement, Marie Petryk said, "My heart feels heavy every day, thinking and knowing he will never return. We miss him every day and it doesn't get easier."

Troubled history

According to the psychiatric assessment, Thom has not had an easy life. She was the victim of physical and sexual abuse as a child and had her first of six children when she was just 15 years old. She has a long history of alcohol and drug abuse and has tried to commit suicide five times.

She also has a lengthy criminal record. Thom was convicted of assault with a weapon in 1997 and assault causing bodily harm in 2001. She told a psychiatrist, "Every relationship I've had with a man ... violence has been there." 

In early 2009, Thom stabbed a man in the back of the neck and was sentenced to two years.  

When she was released from jail, she began living in Petryk's basement, and they became romantically involved. That romance ended abruptly three months later, with one dead and one in custody

The judge called the circumstances "tragic."

"Though nothing done today can repair the damage done by this senseless act of violence, my hope is it will bring closure to the victim's family and to Ms. Thom's family," Yungwirth said.

janice.johnston@cbc.ca

@cbcjanjohnston