Teen gets maximum youth sentence for 1st-degree murder of 11-year-old Teresa Robinson
Garden Hill girl was killed after leaving children's birthday party in May 2015
A Garden Hill First Nation youth who pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of 11-year-old Teresa Robinson received the maximum sentence allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Judge Chris Martin called Robinson's murder a "stunningly cruel" act.
"There was no humanity at play whatsoever in what happened here.… You didn't treat her like a person, you treated her like a thing," he said.
The youth, who was 15 at the time and cannot be named under the act, was sentenced to six years in prison, minus two years for time already served. He will be under court supervision for another four years.
Crown prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft said lawyers for the defence and the Crown arrived at the joint sentencing recommendation, calling it a "true plea bargain." Court of Queen's Bench Judge Chris Martin accepted the sentence.
"Although this offence is beyond horrific, we believe [the sentence] is acceptable in order for there to be a modicum of justice," Vanderhooft said.
Robinson's body was found in a wooded area of Garden Hill First Nation on May 11, 2015, after a massive search. She went missing following a children's birthday party on May 5.
Garden Hill First Nation is a remote fly-in community about 475 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
A teacher called the RCMP to report her missing after she didn't show up at school for several days. Robinson's father told investigators she would often sleep at friends' houses, but after she didn't come home for a couple days, he grew worried and started searching for her.
Community members found the lower half of Robinson's body in a wooded area on May 11. A skull was later found about 30 metres from the body.
The condition of her body led investigators to originally think she had been killed by wild animals.
An autopsy revealed signs that she had been sexually assaulted before being killed.
Analysis by a pathologist and conservation officer confirmed that the damage to the body caused by the animals occurred after Robinson was dead.
DNA samples gathered
Investigators collected DNA samples from about 30 people close to Robinson, but none of them matched DNA collected from her body. They then took samples from all males in the community, and eventually they matched the DNA from Robinson's body to the teen.
He was arrested on March 17, 2016. A second DNA sample taken after his arrest also came back as a match.
Family members of both Robinson and the convicted teen packed the courtroom for the sentencing hearing. One person cried out as details of the autopsy report were read aloud.
None of Robinson's family members or members of the community read victim impact statements.
"It is simply too hard for [them] to put into words" how the crime has affected them, Vanderhooft said.
Defence lawyer Katherine Dowle described the convicted teen as a "soft" child who was "quite shy" and didn't have many friends. She said the teen struggled with speaking English, his first language being Oji-Cree, and as a result had a hard time in school.
He was bullied in elementary school due to his weight, she said.
Although drugs and alcohol are a problem in the community, the teen was not involved, Dowle said, and he had no prior history of abuse or mental illness, and no previous criminal record.
Both of the teen's parents died when he was young, and the teen was raised by his grandmother. Family members described him as a caring person who took care of his grandmother, Dowle said.
'Out of character'
The teen's family was "shocked" by the crime, saying it was "out of character" for him, she said.
When investigators showed the teen photographs of Robinson's body, he became extremely upset after seeing just two pictures, Dowle said.
"He is thinking about going forward and trying to get the help he needs," she said.
The teen made a brief statement in court.
"I'd just like to say sorry to Teresa Robinson's family for putting them through this," he said.
He also thanked his family members for their support before becoming too emotional to speak.
After sitting down, the teen buried his face in his hand and wept.
Speaking in Oji-Cree with the teen's uncle interpreting, his grandmother also briefly addressed the court, asking for forgiveness.
Judge Chris Martin questioned how remorseful the teen could be when he never came forward after Robinson's body was found.
"He essentially hid in plain sight," he said.
Martin also expressed surprise at the "shallowness" of his remorse.
In addition to the prison time and supervision, the judge imposed a 10-year weapons prohibition and ordered the teen to submit a DNA sample to a database.
More from CBC Manitoba: