Nova Scotia

Woman who killed Loretta Saunders granted 8 escorted absences from prison

The Parole Board of Canada has granted Victoria Lea Henneberry passes to attend programs that are not offered in the prison. Each of the eight trips will be for an hour and a half, plus an additional 2½ hours for travel time. 

Victoria Henneberry, 35, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder

Victoria Henneberry is escorted into Halifax provincial court on Feb. 28, 2014. (Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press)

One of two people who murdered a young Inuk woman nearly seven years ago in Halifax has been granted eight escorted temporary absences from prison. 

Victoria Lea Henneberry pleaded guilty in 2015 to second-degree murder in the death of Loretta Saunders. Henneberry, 35, received an automatic life sentence with no chance of full parole for 10 years. 

Earlier this month, the Parole Board of Canada granted Henneberry passes to attend programs that are not offered in the prison where she is incarcerated. Each of the eight trips will be for an hour and a half, plus an additional 2½ hours for travel time. 

Saunders, a 26-year-old woman from Labrador, was subletting her Halifax apartment to Henneberry and Henneberry's then-boyfriend, Blake Leggette, at the time of her death in February 2014.

She was killed after showing up at the apartment to collect late rent payments. Her body was discovered in the median of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Salisbury, N.B., a couple of weeks later. 

Police caught up to Henneberry and Leggette in southern Ontario, where they also discovered Saunders's car and some of her personal belongings. The couple was arrested and returned to Halifax.

Previously granted 5-hour pass

Leggette, now 31, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, which also carries an automatic life sentence. He must serve 25 years before being eligible for parole.

Loretta Saunders was 26 and a student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax when she was murdered. (Facebook)

At the time of her death, Saunders was studying at Saint Mary's University and writing a thesis on missing and murdered Indigenous women. She was also pregnant.

Henneberry has identified as American Cherokee on her mother's side, but the parole board noted in a decision she was not raised in the culture and has no knowledge of her history.

"A number of victim and community submissions were presented that opposed your claim to Indigenous heritage and your access to related resources and supports," the board said in its decision.

Henneberry was granted a five-hour pass last February to attend a session with the Healing of Seven Generations, an Ontario-based organization offering various programs for Indigenous people.

However, amid public outcry, Henneberry lost community support for attending the session and was banned from accessing services for the remainder of her sentence. 

Being held in minimum-security facility

While she has been granted new escorted absences, COVID-19 restrictions mean that programs outside the prison are not currently available.

Overall, the parole board said Henneberry's behaviour in prison has shown steady improvement, to the point where she is now being held in a minimum-security facility. It did not disclose where.

However, it also noted Henneberry does not believe she should be serving a life sentence.

"Your Case Management Team (CMT) report you continue to demonstrate an unrealistic sense of entitlement at times, as you state that you should not be serving a life sentence and should not be incarcerated as there is nothing left for you to learn in prison and you should be released at your earliest eligibility date," it said. 

The board said Henneberry plans to apply for day parole in February of next year.

While the board does not disclose where any inmate is being held for security reasons, its latest decision on Henneberry was released from Ontario.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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