Former Alberta teacher found guilty of second-degree murder in husband’s death
An Alberta woman charged with second-degree murder in her common-law husband’s 2014 death has been found guilty.
The jury in Deborah Doonanco’s trial also found the former elementary school teacher guilty of arson and interfering with human remains in Kevin Feland’s death.
Feland’s body was found in Doonanco’s Glendon home on Sunday, May 25. Doonanco, 53, admitted she shot him twice and set the home on fire. The defence had argued she acted in self defence and that she suffered from battered woman syndrome.
Doonanco’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, said his client was upset and surprised by the verdict.
“We’re very surprised with this jury deliberating in a case like this for less than two hours. We’re not very pleased at all. There certainly will be an appeal,” Beresh said outside the courthouse Tuesday.
The jury started deliberating at 9 a.m. Tuesday and came back with a verdict by 11:30 a.m. Reaction in the courtroom was muted, as supporters for both Doonanco and Feland were present.
Feland’s daughter, Chloe Truss, 15, said the past couple of years have been chaotic and she’s happy justice has been served.
“It’s just a big relief after two-and-a-half years,” Truss said. “We know what’s right and it wasn’t OK what happened. This has affected all of us.”
Truss said Doonanco was a teacher at her school but she didn’t know the woman well. She remembers her dad with fondness.
“He was a good man, I don’t really care what anybody else has to say. He was hardworking, he was dedicated.”
The closing arguments Monday presented two very different versions of what happened in the small community of Glendon, Alta. in May 2014.
The defence presented a case of self defence against “an extremely abusive man, someone who was a heavy crack-cocaine user.” Doonanco’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, said she was a victim of battered woman syndrome.
Beresh said Feland was so out of control, the incident could have easily become a murder-suicide if his client had not taken action. Doonanco’s defence also argued she was in a dissociative state at the time because of battered woman syndrome.
The Crown was critical of the battered woman syndrome expert called to testify by the defence, saying their analysis was based on the self-reporting of the accused and no one else. The Crown also said some of Doonanco’s testimony was inconsistent with what she told a number of witnesses shortly after the killing occurred.
The Crown also argued Doonanco was not as vulnerable a woman as the defence portrayed her to be, arguing she was not fearful of her life and was in control of a number of things in her and Feland’s relationship, including their finances.
The Crown said it believed Doonanco killed Feland to get him out of her house and life.
A second-degree murder conviction means an automatic life sentence. At question now is the period of time Doonanco will have to wait to apply for parole. That could be anywhere between 10 and 25 years, which will be determined the judge.
The jury was asked to offer recommendations on parole ineligibility. Six jurors said they did not have a recommendation. Two jurors said Doonanco should serve 10 years before she is eligible for parole and four jurors recommended she serve 15 years.
Glendon is a northern Alberta village located about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
With files from Vinesh Pratap, Phil Heidenreich, Global News.
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