Marie Adsett and Mike Barber, Canwest News Service Published: Friday, January 30, 2009
Penny Boudreau (R) is escorted out of the courthouse in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, June 16, 2008. She pleaded guilty Friday to murdering her 12-year-old daughter Karissa Boudreau. Sandor Fizil/Reuters
BRIDGEWATER, N.S. -- "Mommy, don't," were the last words Karissa Boudreau spoke as her mother strangled her to death with a piece of twine in the woods outside of Hebbville, N.S.
Her words were read in court Friday morning from an agreed upon statement of facts as Penny Boudreau, 34, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of her 12-year-old daughter.
The woman wiped away tears as she was led away from Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater, N.S. Boudreau was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 20 years.
Crown attorney Denise Smith said outside court that Boudreau addressed the packed room for a brief moment.
Smith said Boudreau told the judge she was sorrier than anyone would ever know.
Smith said the agreed statement of facts was difficult for some in the courtroom to hear.
"There were sobs and tears as the facts were read," Smith said.
"The vast majority, except for police investigators and family members, were hearing these things for the first time. The facts are shocking and very difficult piece to hear. There were some visceral reactions to that by way of tears."
Paul Boudreau, Penny's ex-husband and Karissa's father, told reporters outside the courtroom, said he was sickened.
"Communities and families have been torn apart by this. I can't call it anything but a senseless act. The options were there, and you know for a parent to make that decision, I still can't comprehend it."
Crown attorney Paul Scovil also called Karissa's death "senseless," a murder the likes of which he had never dealt with in his nearly 30 years as a lawyer.
He said that he was glad Boudreau had decided to enter a guilty plea, which spared the community a trial that could have stretched on for months.
Boudreau was charged in June, 2008, after what is fast becoming a very successful police practice - undercover officers posing as members of a crime syndicate promised to help Boudreau out of her problems with the law if she would tell them that she murdered her daughter and how she did it.
Two days before her June 13, 2008 arrest, she did just that, telling the highest member of the crime syndicate, who was actually a police officer, the details of her crime.
"When she was confronted with the admission she had made to an undercover police officer she provided the police with a ... statement admitting her acts," said Smith - the Crown lawyer.
Boudreau's common-law spouse, Vernon MacCumber, was not present for the plea, Smith said, adding he had no way of knowing Boudreau would take Karissa's life when he told her shortly before the murder that Boudreau had to choose between keeping Karissa or him.
Boudreau reported her daughter Karissa missing Jan. 27, 2008 sparking massive searches across the Bridgewater area.
Boudreau told police she had an argument with her daughter in a grocery store parking lot. She then claimed she left her daughter in the car as she bought some juice and bacon inside. When she returned, Karissa was gone, she said.
Karissa had been living with her mother and MacCumber, in a two-bedroom apartment in Bridgewater, a town of 8,000 some 100 kilometres southeast of Halifax.
Tensions between the mother and daughter had run high ever since Karissa had moved from her father's house in Shelburne County in November, 2007.
MacCumber, according to the statement of facts, had told Boudreau that living in their apartment felt cramped with her daughter around.
Boudreau then decided to kill her daughter, court heard.
She drove her daughter to a Sobey's parking lot and left her in the car while she went in. While inside, she phoned her boyfriend to say Karissa was missing. Boudreau then drove to nearby Hebbville, where she chased her daughter out of the red Dodge Neon, forced her to the ground, and choked her with a piece of twine.
Court heard she could feel her daughter struggling beneath her.
With her daughter's body slumped over in the front seat of her car, Boudreau drove to a Tim Horton's and threw out the twine in a coffee cup. She then drove to the LaHave River and disposed of Karissa's body, court heard.
The search for Karissa sprawled around the region, as RCMP dive teams scoured nearby rivers while a helicopter from the Department of Natural Resources patrolled the air, looking for any sign of the missing sixth-grader.
OnFeb. 9, 2008, a nine-year-old boy travelling with his parents stopped to urinate by the side of a road when he noticed what looked like toes sticking out from the snow along the banks of the LaHave River.
Police were called to the scene, where Karissa was found in a pink T-shirt, her pants and underwear pulled down around her legs. Boudreau said she had tried to make Karissa's death look like a sexual assault.
An autopsy revealed that Karissa had died from asphyxiation, with bruises from the twine around her neck.
On Feb. 14, neighbours heard Boudreau and MacCumber arguing vehemently, with MacCumber repeating "Penn, Penn, c'mon speak Penn. How could you do this, how could you do this? I don't understand, you got me involved."
Following a massive investigation into Karissa's death, police arrested Boudreau in Halifax on June 13, 2008, and charged her with the first-degree murder.
RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher said Friday that the success of the case is an example of the co-operation between the Mounties and the Bridgewater police in this murder investigation.
"Of course, first and foremost, our sympathies go out to the families for their loss," he said. "We hope that this will at least help them obtain some closure."
RCMP District Commander Mark Furey called it a "very successful investigation" in which "various covert investigation tactics were applied."
Mark MacLeod, principal at Bridgewater Elementary School, said he found the details surrounding the murder of Karissa, a former student, "gory and disturbing."
"It has been quiet in the community, but it's been on people's minds, of course," he said. "We all wondered, 'Could a mum have done something like that?' Today, we found out that it could happen. It will be disturbing for the community for some time to come."
MacLeod described Karissa as a "great kid." He said he also knew Penny and was shocked with the rest of the community when she was charged four months after her daughter went missing.
"Even though we heard all the details about Karissa's murder today, we didn't want to hear them," MacLeod said. "Bridgewater will never get over it. Closure will eventually come, but in terms of families and mums, it's going to stay awhile."