WARNING: This story contains disturbing content.
A former Edmonton soldier convicted of trying to kill her children has been sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for her crimes.
Justice John Little announced his decision in an Edmonton courtroom on Thursday afternoon, hours after members of the woman’s family had their victim impact statements read at a sentencing hearing.
“I tried to kill myself because my mother tried to kill me, so I thought I should be dead,” the woman’s son said through a written statement. He is one of the woman’s three children who were all under 10 years old when she started a fire in their home at CFB Edmonton in 2015, with the aim of killing them.
The woman, who cannot have her name shared because of a publication ban meant to protect the identity of her children, was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder in February.
The mother was also found guilty of two other crimes: intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a property knowing the property was inhabited and intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a property belonging to the Canadian Armed Forces. She is no longer a soldier as she was discharged by the military.
“She tried to take away my kids from me,” the children’s father said in a written statement read in court on Thursday. “(It) shows how much hate she has towards me.
“I feared for my kids’ lives for four years.”
After the mother was sentenced, Crown prosecutor Dallas Sopko spoke to reporters outside the courthouse and said “it’s important that justice is done and seen to be done, and that happened in this case.”
“We’re relieved that now there’s some closure for the family,” he said. “I know that this has been a long and arduous process for them.”
Sopko added that he believes it was a “significant” sentence and that society is gaining a greater awareness “of the impact that crime can have emotionally, mentally and psychologically on victims.
“And it’s the Crown’s view that the court definitely took that into consideration.”
During the sentencing hearing, Sopko had asked Little to hand the woman a sentence of 13 years in custody, arguing the violence was motivated by the woman trying to deprive the children’s father of custody of their children which he had been given via a court order.
Sopko said the victims’ young ages were aggravating factors the judge should consider, as were the deliberate nature of her crime and the planning she undertook to try to kill the children.
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During the criminal trial, court heard the mother removed smoke detectors from her Edmonton Garrison home before starting the fire and told her children to go back to sleep when they woke up complaining of smoke in the house.
The children were saved when neighbours noticed the fire and rescued the family.
Sopko also pointed to a previous assault she had been convicted of in 1996 as an aggravating factor to consider in sentencing.
“She’s fortunate it did not go as planned,” Sopko said. “That was largely due to the bravery of Good Samaritans.”
The prosecutor added he believed the sentence should be concurrent for each count of attempted murder.
Defence lawyer Curtis Steeves argued his client’s previous criminal record should not be considered in sentencing as the convictions are from many years ago. He described the motive for the violence as being rooted in “desperation and sadness” as opposed to revenge and anger.
Steeves said he believed there are “no life-altering circumstances here for the victims” and noted this was an attempted murder case in which “no serious injuries” were caused.
He said he believed six years in custody is a more appropriate sentence than the 13 years called for by the Crown.
The mother of the victims chose not to address the court and is appealing her conviction.
–With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News