'Honey, you're done,' Alberta man told wife before he killed her

Brett Fenton, 31, has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 17 years for the murder of his wife.

Warning: Story includes graphic and disturbing details

Brett Fenton, 31, has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years for the murder of his wife. (Jesslyn Fenton/Facebook)

The night he murdered his wife, Brett Fenton did a search on his phone to find out how to kill someone with a knife.

Jesslyn Fenton was sound asleep in their home while her husband lay awake in bed for an hour holding a filet knife, according to an agreed statement of facts read in Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday.

"At some point around 1 a.m., he reached over and began to stab her." 

Fenton was originally charged with first-degree murder for the Nov. 2, 2018, killing at a rural acreage near the town of Galahad, Alta., in central Alberta.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years. 

"I am truly sorry for what has happened," Fenton tearfully told Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Henderson before he was sentenced. "Sorry is just not enough for what happened. And I loved my wife." 

Jesslyn Fenton was 25 years old when she died. She married Brett in 2015 after they had dated for four years. The couple's daughter was 18 months old at the time of the stabbing. 

Jesslyn Fenton was 25 years old when she was murdered in November 2018. (Jesslyn Fenton/Facebook)

A month before the murder, court was told, Fenton had a dream about killing his wife. He checked himself into the Ponoka Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury for 12 days and was prescribed medication upon release. 

He was feeling stressed but not homicidal when he returned home to his family. 

The couple had an argument hours before the murder, but there was no more fighting after dinner and his wife fell asleep. 

Fenton slit her throat and stabbed her repeatedly. She woke up and began to struggle, and he covered her mouth to muffle her screams. She pleaded with him to give her a chance to breathe. 

"Nah, honey, you're done," Fenton told her. "I'm really sorry but I can't call 911 right now. It would be too late for you."

Fenton sat on her chest and strangled her until she stopped breathing, according to the agreed statement of facts. Then he washed the blood off his hands and face and changed clothes because they were covered with his wife's blood. 

He admitted he spent several minutes trying to decide if he should kill his sister-in-law, who was living with them along with his daughter. 

"Ultimately, Brett was shaking too much and was too exhausted from killing Jesslyn," the court document said. 

He drove his wife's car to the nearby post office in Galahad, Alta., located about 150 kilometres east of Red Deer, then called 911 to report the killing. He twice confessed his crime to RCMP. 

'An inexplicable act of brutality' 

Fenton, 31, has no prior criminal record.

Defence lawyer Dino Bottos told the court that Fenton had mental health problems for two years leading up to the murder, but there had been no prior incidents or allegations of domestic violence.

"He more than anyone wants to obtain mental health assistance," Bottos told the court. "He is haunted by a form of disorder probably resulting from anxiety that has not been resolved." 

Bottos said his client told him that he hates himself for what he did and began to feel that way the moment his wife took her last breath. 

In agreeing to the joint sentencing submission from the Crown and defence, the judge called the murder "an inexplicable act of brutality toward another human being that represents the most extreme example of domestic violence." 

The judge heard victim impact statements from Jesslyn Fenton's best friend and family members. 

Her father said he cries every day and has been unable to forgive himself for giving his permission for his daughter to marry Fenton. 

Brett and Jesslyn Fenton were married in 2015. (Jesslyn Fenton/Facebook)

"That day haunts me, as I gave permission to someone who hurt her and took her from me permanently," Martin Gardiner wrote. "Everyone tells me that I cannot blame myself, but how can I not. I was her daddy and I was supposed to protect her." 

Jesslyn's mother said she is also haunted. 

"All of my nights are filled with nightmares," Susie Wade told the court. "I can smell the blood, feel the fear my daughter must have felt. I feel the knife going through my flesh." 

Wade said she was grateful that her other daughter and granddaughter walked out of the house alive, but expressed regret that her granddaughter would have to grow up without her mother. 

Due to the pandemic, the judge and defence lawyer were in Edmonton, the Crown prosecutors were in Wetaskiwin and the accused appeared by CCTV from the Edmonton Remand Centre.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston