The Ontario Court of Appeal has denied Melissa Todorovic a new trial for the murder of 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel and upheld her adult sentence of life in prison.
Todorovic was 15 when she taunted and sexually blackmailed her 17-year-old boyfriend into stabbing Rengel to death on New Year’s Day 2008, a jury found in convicting her of first-degree murder.
Though she was tried as a young offender, trial judge Ian Nordheimer sentenced her as an adult to life in prison, with no parole for seven years, and allowed authorities to monitor her for life.
Her boyfriend, David Bagshaw, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was also sentenced as an adult to life in prison.
The ruling is disappointing, Todorovic’s lawyer, Brian Snell, said Thursday afternoon, adding that Todorovic should not have been convicted.
“Primarily we are disappointed because Melissa never intended David Bagshaw to commit this terrible murder.”
Snell had argued that two video statements made to police by the 15-year-old, in which she admitted a role in the murder, were inadmissible at trial under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because the police did not properly explain her rights.
In the interviews, Todorovic told police she knew Bagshaw was going to Rengel’s house that night to kill her and that she called him 15 minutes after the murder asking, “Is she dead?”
She then said she called Bagshaw back, asking where he’d stabbed Rengel.
The panel of three Court of Appeal judges agreed with the trial judge that the two video statements at issue were admissible.
Todorovic and her mother freely went to the police station when asked and were not detained, they found.
And after Todorovic began incriminating herself, the Court of Appeal found she was properly advised of her right to speak to a lawyer and have one present.
As the trial judge said in his reasons, Todorovic “clearly understood her rights to have a lawyer present and willingly chose to waive those rights and participate in the second interview,” wrote Justice Marc Rosenberg on behalf of the panel.
Snell also argued that Todorovic should have been sentenced as a young offender, not as an adult.
The appeal judges rejected Snell’s argument that the trial judge erred by speculating that the “appellant would represent a risk to reoffend in a violent way.”
The trial judge found the psychiatric evidence unhelpful in assessing the future risk, but he also had the evidence of the murder, wrote Rosenberg.
“(The murder) was conceived out of the appellant’s distorted view of her relationship with Bagshaw and of his relationship with the victim. She also continued to show no empathy for the victim and harboured ongoing thoughts of hurting other persons. Those circumstances strongly suggested that the appellant was at risk to reoffend,” wrote Rosenberg.
“The psychological testing showed that a disordered personality was well-established despite the appellant’s young age and the appellant would be difficult to successfully treat.”
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