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Canada Crown seeks 18 years before parole for killer of Whitby mom Kristina Bennett

15:08  19 january  2018
15:08  19 january  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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The last time Kristen Balkissoon saw her cousin Kristina Bennett was during a chance meeting at a discount store. They stood and chatted for a while then parted, hugging and vowing to get together soon.

A few weeks later Bennett, 25 and the mother of an infant son, was stabbed to death by her boyfriend, Matthew Coussons.

“Had I known that hug in Dollarama would be our last, I never would have let go,” Balkissoon told a judge Thursday. “I was shaken to my core and heartbroken when I found out her life was so brutally and tragically taken.”

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Balkissoon was one of a number of family members who submitted victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing for Coussons, who last week pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Bennett’s June 2016 death. He faces an automatic term of life in prison, with a date for parole eligibility to be determined by Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst.

Prosecutor Michael Hill, citing the striking circumstances of the killing, has called for a parole ineligibility period of 18 years. Defence lawyer Krystal Manitius said the minimum 10-year wait for parole eligibility is appropriate.

Court has heard that Coussons, 31, has a lengthy record of violent offences and was living at a halfway house on a 10-year supervision order at the time of Bennett’s death, having previously been convicted of stabbing three people at a New Year’s party in 2011.

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The terms of Coussons’s supervision order had been relaxed to allow him overnight visits with Bennett, with whom he’d been involved in a seven-year relationship and had a young son.

Coussons had been drinking — a breach of the terms of his supervision order — and was accusing Bennett of being unfaithful on the night of the killing, court heard. Bennett professed her love for Coussons even as he struck and attacked her with a knife, court heard. She sustained multiple stab and laceration wounds, and had 10 defensive-style injuries on her hands.

After the killing Coussons wrote “I love you” on the dead woman’s body and took pictures with her, court heard. In the morning he went to a Durham police station and confessed.

During Thursday’s sentencing submissions, Hill said Coussons had been identified as highly likely to commit more offences during his dangerous offender hearing in 2013, based on his pattern of violent recidivism.

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“The frequency and seriousness of the offender’s violent criminal convictions were escalating in the years leading up to this murder,” said Hill. “Lay people can say with all confidence that Mr. Coussons is a psychopath.”

Manitius urged the judge to impose the minimum term for parole eligibility. She cited Coussons’s confession and the fact he’s expressed a desire to plead guilty virtually since the time of his arrest.

“Mr. Coussons has, the entire time he’s been in custody, expressed remorse,” she said. “He loved Ms. Bennett.”

Given the opportunity to address the court Coussons rose and, standing in the prisoner’s dock, apologized for his actions.

“I’m really sorry for what I did. I want you to know I really loved Kristina a lot,” he said, reading in a swift monotone from a piece of paper.

Coussons asked for a “reasonable” sentence so that he can one day leave prison, find work and care for his children.

“I made a big mistake because I was drunk and off my meds,” he said. “I’m really sorry for her family’s loss and I wish I could take this back.”

Justice Fuerst will pronounce sentence Jan. 29.

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