Manitoba

Simone Sanderson's family finds some comfort as killer Kyllan Ellis gets life sentence

Kyllan Ellis will wait 12 years for a chance at parole after being sentenced to life in prison Friday for the 2012 death of Simone Sanderson.

Man who knifed and strangled the 23-year-old will be ineligible for parole for 12 years

Betty Ann Sanderson says she feels 'relief and peace' on the sentencing of the man who killed her grand-daughter, Simone Sanderson. Simone's grandfather Oliver said he thanks God for the sentencing decision.

Simone Sanderson's grandmother proudly clutched a photo of her after her killer's sentencing, believing for the first time since her death that she might be as happy today as she looks in the shot.

Kyllan Ellis, the man convicted of second degree murder, will wait 12 years for a chance at parole after being sentenced to life in prison Friday for her 2012 death. 

"That's how I'm going to remember her, this picture here. You see she was very happy there," said Betty Ann Sanderson.

"Today my heart is broken. I worked really hard to find justice for Simone. I never gave up."

Since the day she found out her granddaughter had been murdered, Sanderson began canvassing the area where her body was found, taking statements from those who'd last seen her and even hired a private investigator, in pursuit of answers.

"Myself, I feel much relief that all those years that I worked so hard to find justice for Simone, and to me, I did something good for her," said Sanderson.

The 23-year-old woman's body was found in an empty lot at the corner of Main Street and Burrows Avenue on Sept. 2, 2012, a week after she went missing on Aug. 26.

Sanderson said she will remember Simone Sanderson this way, smiling and full of hope for her future. (CBC/Lyzaville Sale)

Ellis was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder in May. The conviction carries a life sentence.

Justice Chris Martin reviewed the details of Sanderson's last moments prior to delivering the sentence Friday. 

He said Simone Sanderson and Kyllan Ellis were unknown to each other, and got into a physical altercation over a set of keys in the late hours of Aug. 26, 2012. 

Sanderson had allegedly been working as a sex-trade worker and was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time.

Sanderson was strangled and attacked with a knife, then left beneath some cardboard and leaves in a vacant car lot until her body was found a week later. She had broken bones in her neck and jaw. The filleting knife was found, covered in blood, nearby.

"To be so bold and brutal to take my girl's life, to drag her to a corner and leave her broken, bleeding body there," wrote Sanderson's father Chris Taylor in his victim impact statement read by his partner in court.

"It adds insult to the family … she was written off and disregarded."

Kyllan Ellis was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Simone Sanderson. (CBC)

Sanderson was deeply loved as a mother, daughter, sister and friend. She was struggling at the time of her death, but was on a wait list for treatment. 

"We used to take her to church, and we used to buy her stuff, I remember her she was decorating my home, painting it, and rearranging the furniture for me," said Betty Ann Sanderson.

"She loved her little boy so much. She was grieving for her little boy. She wanted her little boy back. She was part of our life, she was a part of us."

In the days after her death, both grandparents said they spent days on end at the site of her murder to pray and cry.

Justice Chris Martin found there was no evidence that connected Ellis's diagnosed schizophrenia to the murder. He said  Ellis was much more powerful than Sanderson, and she was vulnerable. 

"Nothing in this sentencing can undo the loss, pain and grief of the victim's friends and family," said Martin.

The body of 23-year-old Simone Sanderson was found under a piece of cardboard on Sept. 2, 2012, in an empty lot at the corner of Burrows Avenue and Main Street in Winnipeg. She was last seen on Aug. 26. (Family photo)

He took into account the lack of explanation or admission of responsibility from Ellis, the size difference between him and Sanderson, the "aggregate nature" of the injuries and the fact Ellis, who was arrested and charged with the killing in April 2016, almost got away with the crime while considering his parole eligibility.

Defence lawyer Mike Cook argued that 10 years until parole eligibility would be appropriate given Ellis had no prior criminal history and was willing to seek counselling and mechanical courses while incarcerated.

The Crown had asked for a period of more than 10 years before parole eligibility.

Cook said in court that Ellis was not likely to re-offend, given the absence of a criminal history and past efforts to complete his Grade 12 education and mechanical training. He said he believes Ellis will one day become a productive member of society.

"I just wish both sides of the family to proceed in the future and to heal from this horrible event," said Cook.

"Our lives are shattered because our granddaughter's gone. We have the picture now. That's all we have," said Oliver Sanderson. 

'They still have their son and the hope that there will be a life for him. But we don't have anything. That's what hurts me."

Justice Martin and Sanderson's family thanked the police and investigators for their work on the case. 

After the sentencing was read, Ellis's family approached the Sandersons to say they were sorry.

Sympathy for killer's family

"I feel relief, but I don't feel happy for those people, I feel for them too," said Betty Ann Sanderson.

She'll never forget the phone call from Simone the morning of her murder, when she asked for a ride to their home in Crane River.

"There was so much things that we miss out on on our young women that gone missing, when they're calling out for help, you know, to be there for them. To be there. I learned that."

She said many other families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls never get the justice her family has now. She said after six years of searching and suffering, her family can begin to heal.

"I did it Simone for you. I did it. And I think that's what she'd want her family to do. Not to give up."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Brohman

Reporter

Erin Brohman is a journalist for CBC Manitoba. She previously worked as a reporter for CBC News in Yellowknife and as a pediatric nurse in Halifax and Edmonton. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a Master's of Nursing from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King's College. Email: erin.brohman@cbc.ca

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