(Clayton and Miriam Saunders at the Halifax courthouse Wednesday. Photo: Anna Cormier/APTN)
APTN National News
The mother of Loretta Saunders says it was important to make the long trip from Labrador to Halifax to sit in on an appeal hearing for one of the people convicted of killing her daughter – despite the pain it would cause.
“The reason we came was to make sure that everyone didn’t put their eyes on her, and pity her,” said Miriam Saunders.
Loretta Saunders is the Inuk woman from Labrador who was murdered in her Halifax apartment in 2014 over a few hundred dollars owed to her for rent.
Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette were convicted of her murder.
Henneberry is appealing her conviction of second-degree murder based on fresh evidence that she was not in the right state of mind when she entered the guilty plea.
Delilah Saunders, Loretta’s sister, said she thinks the hearing is a waste of time and resources.
“She was assessed by a psychiatrist and she pleaded guilty after being informed by her very competent lawyer,” said Delilah.
Midway through the morning’s proceedings, an emotional Miriam Saunders left the courtroom.
“We just want to be able to heal,” she said. “I was able to do some good memories of her before, but it seems like they keep my good memories and they give me ugly, hard and painful ones and I don’t want them.”
Loretta’s father, Clayton Saunders, was also at the hearing.
He too just wants to move on.
“If she gets her appeal, then we gotta wait for her trial, which might be another year, who knows? And then we gotta keep on going,” he said. “I think those three judges will make the right decision.”
Henneberry is defending herself, asks for more time.
Although Henneberry had already been granted a postponement of her appeal, which was originally supposed to take place in January, she opened up Wednesday’s hearing by again asking for more time.
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” said Henneberry stating her case for an adjournment.
Henneberry is defending herself because she had been denied legal representation from Legal Aid in Nova Scotia.
She then had been seeking representation from a lawyer in Ontario and sent her documents there.
The Crown, however, had copies of all documents for Henneberry to review.
Henneberry also produced a document that no one had seen prior to the hearing.
It was from an assessment done by another psychologist.
The Crown noted this psychologist only had notes from what Henneberry had been saying about her own mental health – and no other sources.
“Ms. Henneberry has to face reality now,” said Crown Prosecutor Mark Scott. “She is holding her own appeal hostage.”
Ultimately Henneberry’s request for an adjournment was denied and the hearing proceeded.
During cross-examination, Henneberry focused her questions on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Andrew Starzomski, a psychiatrist and witness for the Crown, said after extensive assessments he could not determine whether Henneberry suffered from various mental illnesses, indicating her answers may have been exaggerated.
He said that although Henneberry herself was asserting she had PTSD, there was no record of that other than the new document which was produced that morning.
The doctor who conducted the latest assessment hadn’t known Henneberry for very long.
Henneberry was given the choice to proceed with her own arguments the same day or to take the night to prepare. She decided to wait until Thursday.
Henneberry’s boyfriend at the time, Blake Leggette, was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing.
The pair were subletting Saunders apartment in Halifax. They owed Saunders rent – and instead of coming up with the cash, they murdered her in the apartment, put her body in a hockey bag, and dumped it on the side of a highway in New Brunswick.
Shortly before the trial was scheduled, Henneberry and Legette pleaded guilty.
Henneberry was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Legette was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.