Saskatchewan

Jason McKay gets life in prison for killing wife Jenny McKay; no parole for 17 years

A Regina judge has ruled that Jason McKay will have to wait 17 years to apply for parole, after he was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his wife and sentenced to life in prison.

Jenny McKay was murdered by her husband in September 2017

A Regina judge has ruled that Jason McKay will have to wait 17 years to apply for parole, after he was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his wife and sentenced to life in prison. The couple is pictured on their wedding day near Seafoam, N.S., in 2012. (Submitted by Doug Campbell)

At night, Jenny McKay is alive for a few fleeting moments in the dreams of her family members. Other nights, they awake in fear, haunted by intense nightmares of her gruesome murder or of her killer — and husband — Jason McKay. 

"He was supposed to love and protect her, instead he threatened her, abused her and butchered her," said Doug Campbell, Jenny's dad. He presented a victim impact statement by phone on Thursday to Regina's Court of Queen's Bench at Jason McKay's sentencing hearing. In January, McKay had been convicted after a judge-alone trial of second-degree murder for killing Jenny, 33, in 2017. 

Jenny McKay's family members submitted eight victim impact statements that brought up her bright and free spirit, her love for their family home in Nova Scotia and their bonds. The statements also detailed deep heartache and lingering trauma since the murder.

Her close relatives addressed an ongoing fear of Jason — a man the family trusted and thought they knew. 

"I don't trust him, and my daughter and others close to me are afraid of him getting out," said Doug Campbell. He and his wife, Glenda, called on the court to find justice for Jenny.

The minimum sentence for second-degree murder in Canada is life in prison with no chance at parole for 10 years, but sentences can be as long as life in prison without parole for 25 years.

Justice Michael Tochor, who delivered a brief oral decision Thursday afternoon, ruled McKay, 48, must wait 17 years before he can apply for parole. 

Jenny was the eldest of Glenda and Doug Campbell's three children. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Crown prosecutor Adam Breker had asked for 18 years, while defence lawyer Thomas Hynes had asked for between 12 and 15 years.

Warning: the following section contains disturbing details 

Some factors Tochor considered included McKay's prior convictions for assault causing bodily harm, Jenny's calls to 911, where she described fearing for her life, and other incidents of violence toward Jenny before her death.  

He described the crime as an "act of unspeakable brutality," noting how Jason repeatedly stabbed his wife dozens of times, with most wounds to her neck and chest. Jason took photos of her lifeless body, and stabbed her even more after death. 

The period of parole ineligibility begins from the date of Jason's arrest on Sept. 6, 2017, the night that forever altered the McKay and Campbell families. 

"My heart has become numb most of the time and I feel like if I allow myself to fully feel I will never stop crying," said Jenny McKay's mom, Glenda Campbell. She only has pictures left, and at times she wishes she could crawl into a photo just to be with her daughter. 

Campbell said she'll never find closure.

She can't help see images of her daughter scared and alone as her husband was "gruesomely draining her life from her" — or wandering the streets of Regina with a few clothes, her guitar and a favourite painting trying to escape the abuse. 

"For me the crime started long before her murder — years of being beaten down." 

Evidence of domestic violence

Doug Campbell said it was difficult to read Jenny's diary, which detailed Jason's verbal and physical abuse. The family struggled to listen to all the evidence of abuse detailed in court. They had known trouble existed in the relationship, but they didn't know how bad it was nor that it would escalate to her being "slaughtered." 

Jenny's sister, Ally, said hearing her sister plead with 911 was one of the saddest things she had ever heard. She wondered if she had failed her best friend and big sister. 

Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the country, and it's hard for victims, including Jenny McKay, to get out in part because of a lack of services and full shelters. 

Campbell still wrestles with many questions: "Why didn't he just let her leave? Why wouldn't he ever let her come home by herself for a visit or a Christmas? Why did he have to control every part of her life?"

Jenny Leigh McKay, 33, died in September 2017. In her obituary, her family said 'we remember her earthy voice, great big laugh, her beautiful smile, her huge heart, zest for life and her melancholy spirit.' (Submitted by Doug Campbell)

Jenny's close cousin Pamela Adams said family members now wonder if they will be able to protect their children from what happened to Jenny. She said doubt and mistrust has crept into relationships, as people remain on a constant quest to identify red flags, fearing they won't be able to see the signs of domestic violence. 

Adams's voice broke as she spoke of her personal guilt. 

"How could I have missed her cries for help? Should I have done more to help her?" 

Ben Campbell, Jenny's brother, said he will forever be haunted by knowing someone so close to their family could do this to her. 

He remembers his sister as loyal, melancholy, rebellious, artistic and a free spirit. Perhaps most notably he remembers her as a big dreamer who was still learning and who was ready to make a change. 

"I believe that the best days of her life were still ahead of her," he said.  "Because she was murdered, that life was taken from her, that future was wiped from possibility." 

The Campbell family took many road trips between Nova Scotia and Caronport, Sask., back when Jenny was a child. Campbell said Jenny enjoyed the memories, chronicling them in a book when she was younger. (Submitted by Doug Campbell)

'I hope he finds remorse': Doug Campbell

He also believes she was robbed of her chance to be soothed in death with "no one to tell her it would be OK, no one to tell her that her life mattered and she was loved." 

Jason did address the court, speaking about his mental health struggles and asking to be sent to a psychiatric centre. 

He maintained, as he did at trial, that he did not willfully kill his wife, that he was remorseful and asked "the Lord" to have mercy on his soul. 

In closing his victim impact statement, Doug Campbell said Jason repeatedly blamed Jenny for what had happened. 

"I hope [Jason] finds not just remorse for what he did but actual repentance, which is to own the crime before God and quit trying to find an excuse for it." 

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