Montreal

Sentencing man who killed wife with Alzheimer's will be a challenge, judge admits

The judge at the trial of Michel Cadotte, who killed his wife suffering from Alzheimer's disease, cried as she addressed the wife's family after they shared emotional victim impact statements.

Michel Cadotte, found guilty of manslaughter last month, will learn his fate on May 28

Michel Cadotte, accused of murder in the 2017 death of his ailing wife in what has been described as a mercy killing, arrives for his sentencing hearing at the courthouse Friday, March 8, 2019 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The judge at the trial of a man who killed his wife suffering from Alzheimer's disease cried on Friday as she addressed the wife's family after they shared their emotional victim impact statements.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Hélène Di Salvo said choosing a sentence for Michel Cadotte will be one of the hardest decisions she's ever had to make in a trial.

A jury found Cadotte guilty of manslaughter Feb. 23 in the smothering death of his wife, Jocelyne Lizotte, at a Montreal long-term care institution.

"I want to tell you that I will talk about Jocelyne in my decision," Di Salvo told the court. "It won't bring her back. It won't bring her health back. It won't erase Alzheimer's."

"The work I will have done won't please everybody, but keep in mind that it will take into account your testimonies and the situation, and in no way will it condone what happened."

Crown prosecutor Geneviève Langlois is seeking an eight-year prison sentence for Cadotte.

She told the judge the sentence needs to send a message to society that it's not right to cause someone's death — even when there is suffering, even when one feels worn down — "because human life is sacred."

Langlois also argued that Lizotte died a violent death, smothered by her husband with a pillow on Feb. 20, 2017.

Defence lawyer Nicolas Welt has asked for a sentence of between six and 12 months, including the five months Cadotte spent in jail after his wife's death, before his release on bail.

Welt argued the sentence is not about sending a message. He said, if anything, the message is that caregivers must ask for help and recognize when they need it.

Jury didn't see mother as 'useless old sock,' consoles judge

Sentencing arguments began Friday morning with a statement from Lizotte's son, Danick Désautels, who told the court that he lost his mother three times — once when his father died and the two became more distant, again when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and a third time when Cadotte ended her life.

While reading his letter to the court, Désautels said the way he interpreted the jury's verdict, his mother was seen as "a useless old sock that it was time to get rid of."

He and his brother David said they felt Cadotte had acted in his own interest, despite having said in his testimony that he wanted to end her suffering.

Justice Di Salvo told him afterwards that he was wrong to think that was the jury's impression of his mother.

"I can tell you the 12 humans that were here felt much more affection and sympathy for your mother than you could ever imagine," she said.

Lizotte's granddaughter, Hanaé Désautels, also read a letter sharing her memories with the court.

She said she worried her grandmother had been erased and that her life was reduced to what had happened to her.

"Your grandmother was extraordinary," Di Salvo responded. "I was extremely touched by her and the illness [Alzheimer's]."

'I miss her so much,' says Cadotte, in tears

Johanne Lizotte, Jocelyne Lizotte's sister, was the only of Lizotte's family members to have testified in defence of Cadotte.

She said she had worked as an orderly and had seen the suffering of several patients with Alzheimer's up close.

"Unfortunately, I didn't cry over the death of my sister. It was a deliverance — not for me, but for my sister," she said.

"I could see she was in pain, and I wished God would come and get her."

She said her family had been torn apart by the trial and that her sister's children had shunned her for supporting Cadotte.

The convicted man himself later addressed the court, saying he can't forgive himself for what happened.

"I don't feel right in my skin," he said, in tears. "I'm getting help, and I'm trying to make it through this, but I don't know if I'll be able to do it."

"I miss her so much."

Married for nearly 2 decades

Jocelyne Lizotte, left, and her sister Johanne Lizotte are seen in this undated handout photo provided by Quebec Superior Court. (Handout/Quebec Superior Court/The Canadian Press)

Since Cadotte had admitted to killing his wife in February 2017, the jurors were instructed that they must find him guilty of either manslaughter or second-degree murder.

There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter convictions when a firearm is not used.

The two had been married for 19 years.

Lizotte, who was 60 when she died, was in the late stages of early-onset Alzheimer's.

Arguing for a manslaughter conviction, Cadotte's lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, said her client had become depressed after years of isolation while seeing the mental state of his wife deteriorate over nine years.

She argued that Cadotte acted impulsively when he decided to end his wife's life.

The court heard that in 2014, Cadotte looked into obtaining medically assisted suicide for his wife, but was told she was ineligible because she could not consent and her death was not imminent.

The prosecution had pushed for a second-degree murder conviction, which comes with a minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Di Salvo will hand down her sentence on May 28. She told the Crown she may consider in her decision how alone Cadotte was in caring for his wife.

About the Author

Verity Stevenson is a reporter with CBC in Montreal. She has previously worked for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star in Toronto, and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John.

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