"Her life was important."
The family of a murdered Calgary-area woman embraced each other outside the Red Deer courthouse on Thursday after the man responsible for her death was sentenced.
Monday will mark five years to the day since Talia Meguinis, 27, brutally lost her life.
Nathan Desharnais, 28, pleaded guilty to second degree murder earlier this year, stopping his trial in its tracks.
Desharnais admitted to strangling Meguinis to death on February 20, 2012. The two had just met. Meguinis came to Red Deer to visit her aunt, who lived across the hall from Desharnais at the time.
Meguinis' aunt, her sister, and cousin read tearful Victim Impact Statements during Desharnais' sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon. They described their heartbreak, anger, fear, and pain over her loss.
Second degree murder convictions come with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.
Crown Prosecutor Bruce Ritter asked for the parole ineligibility period to be 13 years for Desharnais, citing aggravating factors including his criminal record, which contains four violent offences.
Ritter also cited the fact Desharnais dumped Meguinis' body in a dumpster, his lack of remorse shown, the "particular brutality" of the murder, and the fact Meguinis was intoxicated at the time of her death as further aggravating factors.
On the other hand, Ritter stated Desharnais' relatively young age, being 23 at the time of the offence, and his eventual guilty plea should be seen as mitigating factors in sentencing.
Desharnais' lawyer Patty MacNaughton asked that the parole ineligibility period be the minimum of 10 years. She said much weight should be put on Desharnais' guilty plea, which saved approximately 20 witnesses from testifying at the trial.
MacNaughton pointed to Desharnais' poor upbringing and drug consumption as possible explanations for his actions, though not an excuse.
When given the chance to speak, Desharnais addressed Meguinis' family directly.
"I wish I could give you some kind of explanation," said Desharnais. "All I can say is I'm sorry. I have to live with this for the rest of my life."
Justice E.J. Simpson took about an hour to decide and ultimately sided with the Crown, ordering Desharnais to serve a life sentence and a minimum of 13 years before he can apply for parole. He was also ordered to provide a sample of his DNA and was handed a lifetime weapons prohibition.
During his oral ruling, Simpson said Desharnais showed "calous indifference toward Talia Meguinis" and that the unprovoked attack was one of "senseless violence."
Speaking outside the courthouse following the hearing, Meguinis' family members expressed their disappointment with the sentence, saying they would have preferred Desharnais serve at least 25 years before being able to apply for parole.
"We are thankful for what was given to him, but still it's going to take a while for us to heal," said Meguinis' cousin Nellie Big Crow. "At least she got some justice and she wasn't just another statistic."
Big Crow said Meguinis' three boys, aged 7, 10, and 12 miss their mother and don't want to forget her. She said the end of the criminal proceedings have not provided any closure. "Honestly I thought it would, but no it hasn't."
"It's not [going to] bring her back. We were supposed to grow old together," cousin Yvette Meguinis said through tears.
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