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4-year prison sentence for man who fatally beat Vernon woman

Click to play video: 'Vernon man sentenced in 2018 killing of girlfriend'
Vernon man sentenced in 2018 killing of girlfriend
A former Vernon pharmacist who pleaded guilty to fatally beating his girlfriend in 2018 was in court today for his sentencing hearing. As Victoria Femia reports, the victims' family delivered an impact statement describing how awful the days have been since losing their loved one – Jun 9, 2023

“Stop it, you’re going to end up killing me.”

Those are the last words Heather Barker, a mother of three, said to her boyfriend Shaun Wiebe March 15, 2018, as he flew into a rage and beat her for allegedly stealing narcotics from his pharmacy’s safe.

The words were prophetic. Mere hours later she stopped breathing.

Wiebe pleaded guilty in 2021 to the manslaughter of Barker, who he started dating in June 2017 and moved in with in August of the same year.

BC Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames on Friday sentenced Wiebe to four years, less 200 days for time served, as per the direction of Crown and defence lawyers.

Wiebe’s crimes, Beames said, were “horrific and inexcusable.”

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According to an agreed statement of facts submitted to Beames during Wiebe’s sentencing hearing, Wiebe and Barker both suffered from alcohol addiction and depression and were illicit drug users.

Crown counsel Margaret Cissell said that their relationship “was tumultuous” and fraught with upsets related to a variety of issues, including their ongoing custody battles with former partners.

Click to play video: 'Documentary on Vernon women’s murder airs in the U.K.'
Documentary on Vernon women’s murder airs in the U.K.

“The accused was a regular user of injectable steroids and testosterone, such that in February 2018 he was hospitalized for the use of contaminated steroids,” Cissel said.

That night, however, things took a turn for the worse.

While living on his family farm in the prairies on Jan. 17, 2021, Wiebe described what happened the night he killed Barker to an undercover operative in a Mr. Big investigation.

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On the night Barker was killed, Wiebe told the operative that he had accused her of stealing drugs from the safe of the pharmacy he owned. He tried to take her purse to look inside, and she wouldn’t let him. Eventually, Barker, who was only five-foot-three, was thrown to the floor.

The argument moved to the bedroom, and Wiebe told the Mr. Big operative that she was sitting on the bed when he laid into her more. Cissel read the transcript of that conversation to the court.

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“How could you do this to my business?” Wiebe recalled saying to Barker.

He then described grabbing Barker by her hair and hitting her head on the floor.

“She was lying on this side, that’s why I had a hold of her hair, her right side was being smashed,” he said.

He knocked her from the bed and then kept beating her.

Click to play video: 'Residents of evacuated Vernon townhouses return home after landslide'
Residents of evacuated Vernon townhouses return home after landslide

“I was enraged, I’d say red,” Wiebe told the operative.

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“When she said stop, I did. I was  kind of like ‘Whoa, OK.’ That was the last thing. I remember her saying and then I did. Honestly, she was like ‘Stop it. You’re going to end up killing me.'”

At around 8 p.m., Wiebe’s brother-in-law, who Wiebe called, contacted 9-1-1 and said an ambulance was needed because Barker had stopped breathing.

When an emergency service worker told him to start CPR, Wiebe pulled Barker off the bed that she must have climbed back onto at some point, and started performing CPR as directed, Cissel explained.

“The accused stopped the CPR at one point, put a T-shirt on (Barker), as she was naked and he was embarrassed over the number of visible bruises.”

She was eventually treated by paramedics and taken to hospital, but she died soon after. She had alcohol and valium in her blood and an autopsy indicated she died from blunt-force head trauma and extensive bleeding in her brain.

Barker left behind three daughters and parents and during the Friday sentencing hearing, they told the court how losing a woman who was kind and loving continued to weigh on them and that the final image of their loved one, battered and bruised, will always haunt them.

Click to play video: 'Calls for Canadian Criminal Code to define femicide'
Calls for Canadian Criminal Code to define femicide

“The fabric of our life, every stitch woven into our family tapestry has become altered forever,” Barker’s parents Deborah and Geoff Cooney wrote in a victim impact statement.

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“The impacts of Heather’s ended life, for us and the extended family, are felt in our past, present and future. Taken away from us with the opportunity to share the future, our life became a jagged ripped timeframe of before-tragedy and our life after-tragedy. The privilege and specialness of the parent and child relationship of kinship and love and sharing life together was taken away.”

The natural impulse of parents to love and protect their children always has come to the point of the worst imaginable outcome, an outcome of no choice, they wrote.

“It’s a life sentence felt daily for us, as parents, and we, for life, must endure other family members’ pain and coping with that sentence as well,” they wrote.

“It also grieves us greatly, that our three granddaughters have had their mum taken from them. And we empathize with the feelings they would have had daily when they witnessed numerous interactions of other daughters with their mothers. It is a stab in the heart that comes often and without warning, a cyclical wound of remembrance…”

While Wiebe, who is now off steroids, initially indicated that he didn’t want to make a statement to the court, when prompted he changed his tack.

“I never intended this to happen. I do apologize if that means anything to them … but I want to take the opportunity to say I am sorry and I do have regret, that’s all I have to say.”

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A new report on femicide in Canada shows a dramatic increase in the killing of women and girls from before the pandemic, with one dying every two days.

The report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that the number of killings of women and girls in Canada was up 27 per cent in 2022 compared with before the pandemic in 2019.

The Vernon woman who died after being found unresponsive in her home was identified as Heather Marie Barker. Facebook

The report, which looks at the number of killings of women and girls from 2018 to 2022, showed that more than 850 women and girls had lost their lives. In 83 per cent of cases, the accused killer was male.

For those experiencing violence, there is free, confidential support provided by Archway Society for Domestic Peace, formerly the Vernon Women’s Transition Society.

For anyone seeking information, support, or resources, please contact http://www.archwaysociety.ca or call 250-558-3850.

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Those in crisis who need immediate support, can call their 24-7 number at 250-542-1122, or call 9-1-1.

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