The lawyer for convicted murderer William Gordon Robert Elliott asked judge Keith Bracken to consider his client’s troubled childhood, feelings of remorse, and Aboriginal heritage when determining his sentence.
The Crown is seeking the maximum 25 years before Elliott is eligible for parole, but his lawyer, Scott Sheets, countered by asking between 12 and 15 years.
Elliott, 26, pleaded guilty last summer to the murders of 42-year-old Karrie-Ann Stone in July 2010, and 18-year-old Tyeshia Jones in January 2011.
Sheets acknowledged the brutal nature of his client’s crimes, but noted that once he was caught, he expressed remorse, and even agreed to speak with the mothers of his victims.
"He took responsibility shortly after he was arrested, even against the advice of counsel," Sheets pointed out.
Elliott was 22 years old when he murdered Stone, Sheets noted. It was an impulsive act, which took place after the two had consensual sex, which Elliott paid for. Stone provoked Elliott, according to Sheets.
"It was extortion by Ms. Stone to tell his family if he didn’t pay more money," he said.
Elliott thought Stone was dead before he set her on fire, and only found out she was alive after the fact, Sheets continued.
"He didn’t have cruel intentions of depravity to set her on fire believing she was alive," he said.
In addressing the murder of Jones, who Elliott strangled after accidentally hitting her with his truck and attempting to sexually assault her, Sheets acknowledged Elliott’s "disturbing efforts" to prevent her body from being identified, which included attempts to knock out her teeth and poke out her eyes, but said that there was no evidence he did those things while she was alive.
Sheets commented on the similarities in both murders, that neither was planned or premeditated, and in the case of Jones, Elliott panicked because he was worried he’d be found out for Stone’s murder if he alerted authorities when he struck Jones with his truck.
Sheets also discussed Elliott’s troubled background at length, detailing a history of abandonment, neglect and abuse, a journey through multiple foster homes, and eventual substance abuse.
Elliott was abandoned by his mother before he was a year old and lived with his father for the first few years of his life. Reunited with his mother at the age of five, he lived with her on the streets of Vancouver, where he witnessed drug abuse, violence and sex.
He returned to the Cowichan Valley at the age of six, where he lived in a crowded, previously abandoned house with more than a dozen others, including older boys who physically abused him. At the age of nine, he was found by a Duncan resident sleeping under a bush outside a bank. Shortly after that, he went into foster care, changing homes frequently.
Despite that history, Sheets said there is a great deal of support available to Elliott if and when he returns to the community.
"He has a big family," Sheets said. "He’s not alone. His family loves him and is behind him. They will support, encourage, and prepare him for release."
Sheets also urged Bracken to approach sentence differently because of Elliott’s "unique circumstances as an aboriginal offender."
He cited several previous cases where the economic and social deprivations and lack of opportunities that often come with being First Nations were factored into sentencing.
"[Previous decisions were] saying that normal culpability is diminished because of these systemic factors," he said.
Sheets completed his presentations on Wednesday. Closing arguments are expected on Thursday morning.