Father, stepmom who killed Meika Jordan see convictions upgraded to 1st-degree murder

Alberta's highest court has upgraded a Calgary couple's convictions to first-degree murder in the 2011 beating death of their six-year-old daughter, Meika Jordan. Her father, Spencer Jordan, and stepmother, Marie Magoon, were initially convicted in June of second-degree murder.

Alberta Appeal Court changes 2nd-degree murder convictions of Marie Magoon, Spencer Jordan

Spencer Jordan and Marie Magoon were convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Meika Jordan. The Alberta Appeal Court has upgraded the convictions to first-degree murder. (Submitted by family/CBC)

Alberta's highest court has upgraded a Calgary couple's convictions to first-degree murder in the 2011 beating death of their six-year-old daughter, Meika Jordan.

Meika's father, Spencer Jordan, and stepmother, Marie Magoon, were initially convicted in June of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years.

"The result is the product of the hard work of so many," said original trial Crown prosecutors Susan Pepper and Hyatt Mograbe in a written statement. 

"We are very pleased with the court's decision and we are encouraged by the potential legal implications ‎for cases involving child homicides. We sincerely hope that Meika Jordan's family gains some comfort from this decision."

First-degree murder can mean a killing was planned and deliberate, but there are several paths to a conviction. In this case, the appeal judges found the girl was forcibly confined in the lead-up to her death and that was an element in their decision.

A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

During the trial, court was told that Meika was burned, beaten, punched, dragged by her hair and thrown down the stairs over a three-day period leading up to her death in November 2011. It was told, for instance, that the girl suffered a serious burn after Magoon held a lighter to Meika's hand.

Following a lengthy undercover police investigation, both Magoon and Jordan were arrested a year after Meika's death.

During appeal arguments, lawyer Michael Bates said Magoon's confession to undercover officers should not have been allowed as evidence.

Incorrect interpretation by judge

Magoon and Jordan were originally on trial for first-degree murder. After the second-degree murder finding, the Crown appealed to ask that the couple be convicted on the original charges.

The Alberta Court of Appeal sided with the Crown, saying the couple's unlawful confinement of Meika in the days that led up to her death was incorrectly interpreted by Justice Rosemary Nation during the trial.

"The appellants were acquitted of first-degree murder because of the trial judge's erroneous approach to the issue of unlawful confinement in the context of a parent child relationship," the newly released written decision reads.

Supreme Court of Canada

The decision adds that "Meika was unlawfully confined by the appellants over the course of the weekend," and the "continued illegal domination of the victim extended beyond the final, fatal blow or blows, and was part of a continuous sequence of events that culminated in Meika's murder."

Magoon's lawyer, Michael Bates, said he is now seriously considering taking the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Defence lawyers in this case would not need leave to take the case to the Supreme Court — it would be an automatic right, given the province's highest court replaced the first-degree murder acquittal with a conviction.

​New normal for Meika's mother

Meika's mother and stepfather said it's a step towards some type of closure.

"Today is the final end piece for the true justice we have been looking for," Kyla Woodhouse told CBC News.

Meika's mother, Kyla Woodhouse, and stepfather, Brian Woodhouse, say it's important to keep Meika's memory alive for the rest of their young family. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"We have a beautiful family. We have had three more beautiful children since Meika passed and I think that helps to be able to carry on her memory and that kind of keeps us on the positive note. To be able to talk to her siblings about her, we want to be able to keep her memory alive and around for the sake of her siblings."

Brian Woodhouse said it's about finding a new normal.

"It has been a very long, painful, dramatic road but I feel like this time, we can finally say we are at the end of it. We finally found the justice that our girl deserves," he said.

"We are about as happy as we can be at this point. It's been said over and over again, nothing is going to bring her back. That is something that we have long since come to terms with. That is a piece of us that will never come back either."

Precedent-setting decision

University of Calgary criminal law professor Michael Nesbitt says the case will definitely set a precedent for others involving child homicides.

It's certainly uncommon to see convictions upgraded on appeal, he said. 

"Usually it's decreased or it's sent back to the trial court for sentencing or for redetermination."

Members of a group called Bikers Against Child Abuse sat through the trial to show support for Meika's mother and stepdad. William Hebert, who goes by Wheels, attended the entire trial.

"Our system has got a lot of a lot cogs and a lot of moving parts so I think there was a lot of people that were surprised by (the decision)," he said. "But I think this is definitely the way it should have been at the start."