Kim Gagné’s family and friends described a beautiful woman who had a joie de vivre, who was ambitious, and who embraced life.
In a downtown Toronto courtroom Wednesday, happy memories were recalled through tears as Gagné’s mother and best friend, who both travelled from Quebec City for the hearing, read victim impact statements about the void left that’s been left after the 33-year-old was murdered at the hands of her boyfriend. A dozen more impact statements written by the victim’s relatives and friends were also read out by Crown prosecutor Paul Alexander.
In November 2022, 32-year-old Bronson Lake pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, admitting he struck Gagné with a hammer in the basement apartment where the couple lived near Albion and Weston roads on July 13, 2021.
“I too trusted him when I first met the one who would take her away from me,” Gagné’s best friend Melanie Lapointe told the court about Lake, whom she described as a man she thought was a calming presence and would make a good husband and father.
“I keep wondering if I could have saved her. I should have seen the signs. I can’t help but wonder how and why I failed to see how incredibly controlling he was.”
Lapointe called Gagné a happy, gorgeous soul whom she spoke to daily. She explained that the murder has left her unable to trust a man and fearful for her female friends. Lake sat in the prisoner box, quietly weeping and wiping away tears, as he listened.
Manon Gagné, speaking through a French translator, wept as she spoke about her greatest wish for her daughter, which was for her to have a good life and be happy. She said Kim loved to travel, was a great adventurer and felt fulfilled in life as a woman who was ready to have children.
“My heart will be broken forever. I miss you so much,” said Gagné.
According to an agreed statement of facts, a nurse at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) called police on July 14, 2021 after speaking to Lake, who had walked in to the hospital. The nurse reported to police that Lake admitted he had hit his girlfriend in the head with a hammer, that she had lost consciousness and was losing blood.
Lake was detained under the Mental Health Act after telling the doctor he intended to kill his girlfriend and himself.
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Police then attended the couple’s apartment and discovered Gagné’s lifeless body lying on the couple’s bed. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers also recovered a blood-stained hammer at the foot of the bed and a bloody knife in the kitchen.
Superior Court Justice Rob Goldstein sentenced Lake to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years, calling it a “brutal murder carried out with extreme violence,” and said he would have sentenced Lake to a higher range of parole ineligibility were it not for the guilty plea.
Alexander said the range for similar domestic murders involving first-time offenders is between 12 and 17 years, but in this case, a period of parole ineligibility of 16 years would be fit because the pre-sentence report offered no identifiable focus for rehabilitation.
Lake expressed his love for the victim and described his relationship as healthy, thereby ruling out the breakdown of the relationship as a reason for the offending behaviour. Alexander cited the fact that the report’s author found that there was no clarity or insight provided by Lake nor his family to explain his offending behaviour, which makes him an ongoing risk to the public.
Alexander also implied that Gagné was sleeping at the time of her murder, making her even more vulnerable, and was struck multiple times with the hammer.
“She trusted Mr. Lake to be with her when she slept. She was more vulnerable than a woman who was awake and on her feet. He abused that trust and murdered her in a place we think of as the safest place we know: in our own home, in our own bed.”
He also said a further aggravating factor was that Lake told doctors that the murder was pre-contemplated.
Defence lawyer David Goodman had argued that a fit period of parole ineligibility would be at the low end of the 12-17 range, pointing to the guilty plea, which spared the victim’s family from having to sit through a painful trial. He also argued that Lake is remorseful, despite the fact the pre-sentence report is silent on motive.
Before being sent away to start serving his penitentiary sentence, Lake stood up and choked back tears as he quietly addressed the court.
“There is no sentence that I could receive that could be worse than what I feel about what happened. Kim is the love of my life. If I can speak to the family directly, my hope is that time helps them help. There’s no cure for the contempt I feel for myself and I will be spending whatever sentence is given trying to objectively approach the elements of myself which contributed to what happened. I am very sorry.”
Lake was also ordered to submit his DNA to the DNA databank and have no contact with the victim’s family.