Calgary

'I forgive you,' mother of torture victim tells killer a decade after murder

Ten years after Daniel Levesque was "tortured extensively" — beaten, boot stomped, burned, stabbed — one of his attackers has pleaded guilty to murder and a powerful moment of forgiveness unfolded in the courtroom. Warning: This story contains disturbing details.

Warning: This story contains disturbing details.

Linda Levesque offered forgiveness to the man who killed her son Daniel, right, a decade ago. (CBC News/Calgary Police Service)

Ten years after Daniel Levesque was "tortured extensively" — beaten, boot stomped, burned, stabbed — one of his attackers has pleaded guilty to murder and a powerful moment of forgiveness unfolded in the courtroom.

Sheldon Worme, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Wednesday. He was previously found guilty of first-degree murder in 2012 but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial. 

Levesque's mother wiped tears from her eyes as she listened to the gruesome and brutal details of her son's killing, breaking down as photos of his battered body — he suffered 80 injuries — were shown in court.

Sheldon Worme admitted he helped beat Daniel Levesque to death in June 2008. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Wednesday. (CBC)

But afterwards, she stood in the witness box and delivered a victim impact statement full of grace. 

"You have extinguished the life of his body, but not his spirit; you have extinguished our future together, but not our memories," Linda Levesque said to Worme. 

"I forgive you, Sheldon, and I pray this forgiveness will free your heart to know our heavenly Father's mercy, love and healing."

Afterward, Worme was given the opportunity to speak and in what came across as a genuine apology told his victim's parents he is "extremely sorry" for his actions and thanked them for their forgiveness.

From her seat in the gallery of the courtroom, Linda Levesque replied: "Thank you, Sheldon."

Killers attacked 'like a pack of wolves'

Levesque's parents and sister described the "unbearable" torment of knowing his final moments were full of pain, terror and suffering.

On June 28, 2008, Levesque invited Worme, an acquaintance, over to his home to have some drinks. Two other men who were acquaintances of Worme's joined.

Derek Campeau and Aaron Lee Stevens told Worme they planned to rob Levesque. When the three arrived, they began their attack.

The three acted "like a pack of wolves" during the murder, said prosecutor Jonathan Hak.

"[Levesque] was tortured extensively," said Hak. "He died for the greed and rage of others."

The torture

After the initial beating, the trio dragged Levesque to the basement of his home where Worme smashed the victim's face and head with a dumbbell. 

Levesque was stabbed, burned with hot knives and boot stomped. The men tried to cut a finger off. They used a drill and chisel on him. 

Throughout the torture, Levesque refused to give his attackers the PIN to his girlfriend's bank card. Before they left, the killers tried to light Levesque on fire.

Turning on loud music to drown out the victim's screams, the men left the house and tried, unsuccessfully, to withdraw $200 from the bank card they'd stolen.

Levesque's girlfriend found his body hours later. The medical examiner found all of his injuries including brain bleeds and stab wounds caused his death because they went untreated.

'He wishes it never happened'

As police investigated Levesque's death, Worme became the subject of a lengthy undercover police sting.

That operation ended in January 2009 with his confession to an undercover police officer who had been posing as the boss of a criminal organization.

In 2013, Campeau and Stevens were found guilty of manslaughter; Campeau was handed a life sentence while Stevens was ordered to spend 14 years in prison.

Defence lawyers Tonii Roulston and Andrea Urquhart said their client's remorse is genuine and he pleaded guilty to save Levesque's family from further pain

"He doesn't want to relive it," said Roulston. "He wishes it never happened."

'A golden moment'

Prosecutors Hak and Kane Richards joined Roulston and Urquhart in asking that Worme be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years. 

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Willie deWit will deliver his decision next week. 

Worme has about nine years credit for the time he's served since his arrest in 2009.

In her statement, Linda Levesque described an outdoor-loving son who spent a lot of time biking in Fish Creek Park.

Levesque's birthday was just weeks before his death and the family spent time together, talking, laughing and looking at family photos on a park bench after dinner.

It was the last time Linda saw her son alive, heard his voice and hugged him. 

"It was a golden moment," said Linda. "In the ache of missing him, my memory goes back to that wonderful evening."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

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