Edmonton

'I just shot the man I loved,' Alberta woman recalls thinking after pulling trigger

A retired teacher on trial for fatally shooting her partner told a St. Paul courtroom Friday how the couple had a confrontation in the minutes before she grabbed a rifle and used it.

'It was like I was watching somebody else in a horror movie'

Court sketch of Debbie Doonanco testifying at her trial for second-degree murder. (Ivory Rose Hrabec)

A retired teacher on trial for killing her partner told a St. Paul courtroom Friday how the couple had a confrontation in the minutes before she grabbed a rifle and used it.

Testifying in her own defence, Debbie Doonanco said that on the morning of May 25, 2014, she emerged from her bedroom after her partner, Kevin Feland, had been smoking crack cocaine all night.

"There was no noise. It was silent," Doonanco testified.

"I wanted to see what Kevin was up to, so I crawled out of my bed, opened the French door, walked towards the living room."

Doonanco, 53, is on trial for second-degree murder, arson and commiting an indignity to human remains. She has pleaded not guilty.

She said Feland was sitting on the couch of their home in Glendon, northeast of St. Paul, staring at the television screen.

The TV was on with the sound off.

"We stared at each other," Doonanco said.

She decided she'd had enough, she said. Even though she said she was terrified of angering Feland, she delivered an ultimatum.

"I turned towards him and I said, 'Kevin. I need you to leave. You need to find a place to stay today because I can't take this kind of life anymore.'

"He said, 'No, you dumb bitch. It's time for you to die.' "

Doonanco said a rifle was on the coffee table in front of Feland and he began to reach for it.

With her head bowed, choking back tears on the witness stand, Doonanco took a deep breath and told the jury, "It happened so fast. I grabbed the gun and I shot him."

Doonanco said the 44-year-old fell back on the couch and began making noises. She was afraid he was still alive.

"So I cocked the gun as fast as I could and I shot at him. And I ran out of my house. I never looked back."

Doonanco took the gun and said she placed it under a shed in her yard.
Debbie Donanco testified she hid the rifle she used to shoot her partner under this shed in her yard. (Supplied)
Close-up exhibit photo showing butt end of rifle underneath garden shed. (Supplied)

Between sobs, she told the jury: "I was in shock. It was like I was outside my body. I was just horrified."

She added: "I just shot the man I loved."

And: "I truly felt I was going to die."

Doonanco admitted she grabbed a can of gasoline and took it back inside the house. She poured gas on the floor by the front window then lit it.

Her lawyer, Brian Beresh, asked why she set the fire.

"Because I wanted somebody to come and help me," she wailed on the witness stand.

"Was he alive at that time?" the lawyer asked.

"I don't know," Doonanco said. 

As people poured into her yard, she was feeling scared and confused, she testified.

"I didn't know what was happening to me," she said.  "I had so many emotions.  I hadn't eaten for about six days. It was surreal. It was like I was watching somebody else in a horror movie."

Later Friday, the Crown began its cross-examination of Doonanco. 

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

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