Karen Flynn was sentenced to 5 years and 56 days in jail with credit for time served for the stabbing death of 56-year-old Margaret Elizabeth Steer Tuesday — all because of a disagreement over a borrowed air conditioner.

It's a case Justice Fred Campling called "confusing and senseless."

'I fear that I won't make it to heaven.' - Karen Flynn

Flynn, 44, faced the family of the woman she stabbed to death for the first time in a Hamilton courtroom at the sentencing hearing Tuesday, pleading for forgiveness.

“I only hope one day Mrs. Steer’s family can forgive me – and that one day I can forgive myself,” she said from inside the prisoner’s box. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Mrs. Steer or my actions.

"I fear that I won't make it to heaven."

The incident happened in a MacNab Street North apartment building back in January. Flynn pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter last month.

Hamilton stabbing

Police say Karen Flynn showed remorse for her actions right away, even on the night of the incident. (David Ritchie/CBC)

According to police, a fight broke out on the 12th floor of an apartment building at 500 McNab Street North on Jan. 4. Steer and her boyfriend Barry Wheeler – who lived on the 9th floor – had gone to another couple's apartment in the building to retrieve an air conditioner Steer had loaned them. According to statements read in court, it was Wheeler's idea. "And it was a stupid idea," Campling said.

Police say an argument broke out and the two men attacked one another and soon the two women became involved – though court heard Tuesday that Steer was trying to “play peacemaker,” and break it up. Police say Flynn beat the victim's boyfriend with a baseball bat, and eventually grabbed a knife and stabbed Steer in the neck and chest.

A sister remembered

Steer's boyfriend called police. When they arrived, Flynn and her boyfriend had left the scene and they found Steer had suffered severe injuries, but was still alive. She died on the way to hospital after paramedics tried to save her.

In a victim’s impact statement read aloud to the court, Steer’s sister Darla Waite said she’ll remember her sister as a kind and generous person who she loved “instantly.” “Spring was her favourite time of year because she could plant flowers and watch them grow,” she said. “This year, spring came and it wasn’t the same.”

“I still post to my sister’s Facebook and Skype account. As long as they’re kept open, I’ll keep talking to my sister.”

Brother John Steer said his sister was caring and willing to help anyone. “A beautiful free spirit has been taken both far too soon and needlessly,” he said in his victim impact statement.

“I do hope the accused will come to realize the tragic wrong she has committed.”

'No one needed to die'

Flynn does have a previous criminal record, defense attorney Larissa Fedak told the court, which largely stemmed from abusive relationships through the years. “She’s had her own struggles,” she said. “Her partners would be abusive, and she would retaliate.” Flynn also had issues with alcohol, Fedak said. Her longest previous sentence was 85 days in jail.

Justice Campling told Flynn that she "deserved considerable credit" for entering a guilty plea instead of forcing family members to endure the rigours of a trial. But the fact that Flynn was already on probation for violent and weapons-related offences worked against her, he said.

"I accept that you are remorseful," Campling said. "The problem is you were likely remorseful when you were put on probation for other offences."

"A little thought before killing someone would be much more careful than remorse afterwards."

Power said that Steer was just trying to get everyone involved to stop fighting, and was killed for it. “She was trying to act as a peacemaker,” Power said. “She was certainly not the aggressor in this situation, and for her efforts, she was killed.”

“This was a fistfight between two men … but no one needed to die.”