Manitoba

Friends, family sob as Brenda Schuff found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in killing of Wolseley neighbour

Brenda Schuff was charged with second-degree murder after Judy Kenny, 54, was found beaten and stabbed in her Wolseley home in the early hours of April 10, 2017.

Emotional end to trial for Schuff, found guilty Wednesday in April 2017 death of Judy Kenny

Judy Kenny was found dead in her house on Camden Place on April 10, 2017. (Facebook)

A jury has found Brenda Schuff guilty of a charge of second-degree murder in the 2017 killing of one of her neighbours in Winnipeg's Wolseley neighbourhood.

Schuff, 46, was charge after Judy Kenny, 54, was found dead in her home in the early hours of April 10, 2017.

Crown prosecutors told a Court of Queen's Bench jury that Schuff beat and stabbed her neighbour multiple times after they both spent time drinking in Kenny's home.

Emotions were high in the courtroom Wednesday morning as the jury returned with their verdict, after beginning deliberations on Tuesday morning.

Schuff hung her head after the guilty verdict was announced, rocking back and forth in the prisoner's box. 

Moments later, her friends and family in the courtroom began sobbing, with one young woman was crying so much that makeup ran down her face.

Before Schuff was taken into custody, she hugged several people standing in the public gallery, telling them she loved them. Some had been present in court almost every day of the trial, which began on June 10.

"I love you guys. Thank you for everything," she said as sheriffs led her out of the courtroom in handcuffs. 

Bizarre, brutal case 

Before dismissing the jury Wednesday, Justice Richard Saull thanked them for their time and effort in deciding a verdict in a "bizarre" case with "extremely unsettling circumstances, with no clear explanation of not only extremely violent, but brutal behaviour." 

During Schuff's trial, the jury heard Kenny was found lying on her back on the floor of her kitchen, with several stab wounds to her chest and a kitchen knife lodged in her head.

The pair didn't know each other before the night of Kenny's death. They met when Kenny was out looking for a dog that had gone missing, prosecutor Debbie Buors told the jury. 

The defence did not deny that Schuff stabbed Kenny, but lawyer Matt Gould argued Schuff was defending herself in a violent "life or death" struggle.

Schuff testified in her own defence during the trial, telling the jury that Kenny attacked her while holding a knife. She said she thought Kenny was going to kill her.

She said she remembered punching Kenny in the forehead, but had no memory of the events following that and didn't remember stabbing Kenny.

Kenny was killed in her Camden Place home on April 10, 2017. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

A toxicology report showed Kenny's blood alcohol concentration on the night she was killed was four times the legal driving limit, and she had used a combination of antidepressants and a sleeping aid. 

Schuff testified that she'd had a few drinks the night of Kenny's death but wasn't intoxicated. 

Winnipeg Police Service Sgt. Ari Mamott, who discovered Kenny's lifeless body, testified that he was approached by Schuff on the night of the murder.

She approached police with blood-covered hands that night, he told the court during the trial, saying she was someone they were "going to want to talk to about this."

Victim had many friends, loved dogs 

Outside the courthouse, people who knew Kenny described her as a kind, stylish person who had many friends, loved dogs and loved "bling," always having the best jewelry. 

Many of them had also sat through most of the trial.

Tracy Ptashnik said she was friends with Judy Kenny for over 20 years. She described Kenny as a beautiful, kind person. (Tyson Koschik/CBC )

"This is like the most unbelievable thing happened to the most beautiful person," said Tracy Ptashnik, who said she was friends with Judy Kenny for over 20 years.

"It's hard to wrap my head around. We all miss her so much," she said, adding Kenny "was the kindest person. She was always the first person to give you a compliment on something."

Ptashnik said that she's happy with the verdict, but it doesn't ease the pain of Kenny's death or bring her beloved friend back. 

"This really sucks for everybody involved, but I feel grateful to the jury for taking the time to make the right decision."

Accused 'devastated' by verdict 

Schuff's defence lawyer said his client and her family are devastated by the verdict. 

Gould pointed out that because Manitoba does not have a women's prison, she will have to serve her time outside the province, which will make things even more difficult for her and her family. 

Schuff's defence lawyer, Matt Gould, speaks with media outside the courthouse after the verdict. (CBC )

He said he was disappointed that the jury did not accept Schuff's claim that she was acting in self-defence, but understands how her inability to recall exactly what happened would be "unsatisfying."

"Everybody likes to know the entire story. What's difficult and what can be frustrating is opinions that come out of, 'Well, I would remember if that happened,'" he said. 

"Who can say that? Who can say what they would remember when they go through what Ms. Schuff went through?" 

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence, but Justice Saull will have to make a decision on when Schuff will be eligible for parole. Jurors recommended 10 to 15 years. 

A date for sentencing has not been set but is expected to be scheduled in assignment court on Aug. 14. 

About the Author

Sarah Petz

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. She was previously based at CBC New Brunswick. Her career has taken her across three provinces and includes a stint in East Africa. In 2017, she was part of a team of reporters and editors nominated for a National Newspaper Award for a feature on the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick. She can be reached at sarah.petz@cbc.ca.