Elk Point man pleads guilty to manslaughter
'Freakish' incident resulted in death, says lawyer
A 21-year-old man from Elk Point plead guilty to manslaughter last week at Court of Queen’s Bench in St. Paul in connection with the death of a 76-year-old Bonnyville woman.
Judge P.B. Michalyshn from Edmonton sentenced Jesse Colton Leppanen to 10 years in jail, less time served, in the death of Mary Ella Jane Corbiere whose body was found on November 15, 2010 in Kehewin.
Crown Prosecutor Jeff Rudiak and defense lawyer Naeem Rauf agreed upon the sentence of 10 years for manslaughter before submitting it to the judge. Leppanen has already served 15 and a half months and was originally charged with second-degree murder.
According to the statement of facts presented by Rudiak before sentencing, Leppanen met Corbiere on October 2, 2010 at a 7-Eleven store in Bonnyville and invited her back to a residence in Kehewin.
In his statement, Leppanen said he remembers suffocating Corbiere with a pair of ski-pants and finding her body several hours later outside the residence. Leppanen said he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time.
On November 14, 2010, police contacted Leppanen, less than a month after Corbiere’s family filed a missing persons report. Leppanen provided the RCMP with a map of Corbiere’s whereabouts. Her body was later found covered up with leaves and a cardboard box, Rudiak said.
Rudiak said traces of DNA evidence from Leppanen and Corbiere were found on a futon at the Kehewin residence. After examination, the medical examiner could not pinpoint the cause of Corbiere’s death, but suggested it could have been from hypothermia or suffocation, the crown said.
The defense lawyer pointed out that Leppanen did not remember everything that happened on the night of the murder and that when he found Corbiere, he was surprised to find her dead. Rauf also described the incident as “freakish,” due to the testimony heard at the preliminary inquiry.
Rauf said witnesses at the inquiry described the accused as a truthful, gentle, hard working and non-violent person. One witness, according to Rauf, said Leppanen felt sorry for Corbiere, who was a homeless person, and originally wanted to do a good deed by offering her a ride.
Due to his age - he was 19 at the time of the offense – and pleading guilty with no previous criminal record, Rauf said that despite the senselessness of the crime, the agreed upon sentence of 10 years for manslaughter was legitimate.
Several of the victim’s family members were present for the sentencing and chose to read aloud their victim impact statements. In the readings, Corbiere was described as a loving, kind and completely harmless person. Some of the members expressed their insecurity of being out in public after hearing of Corbiere’s death.
Leppanen could be seen crying during the victim impact statements. He addressed the court to give his apologies to Corbiere’s family as well as his own family and any others who have been caused hurt or grief.
Michalyshn said he was struck by Leppanen’s background of no previous criminal record and said the sentence of 10 years will be an opportunity for him to manifest remorse for his actions.
The judge also said Leppanen should use his time in prison to consider how to improve his life and hopes he will come out a better person than today.
Leppanen will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least two thirds of his sentence.
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