A judge said a man convicted of stabbing his ex-spouse 14 times has shown “genuine” remorse, as he sentenced him to 10 years in prison for attempted murder.
Matthew Lavallee was 26 years old when, on February 27, 2016, in the northern hamlet of Weyakwin, he allegedly found his former common-law spouse in bed with another man. He stabbed her in her face, her neck and all over her body. She was later rushed to hospital with severe injuries, including skull fractures, and is still blind in one eye.
Lavallee agreed to plead guilty to aggravated assault, but not attempted murder, saying he did not remember the attack. But he was convicted at trial, and faced sentencing on Tuesday.
Crown prosecutor Cynthia Alexander was seeking a 15 year sentence. She called the attack “extensive” and “prolonged.” She noted that it left Lavallee’s victim with a disability, scars and “anxiety about her new appearance.” The stabbing also likely took a heavy emotional toll on one of their two children.
“One of those children doesn’t witness the assault, but comes into the picture very soon after and witnesses her mother in great distress,” Alexander said.
She said that an assessment showed that Lavallee is at high risk to reoffend on a domestic violence scale, which ranked him higher than 93 per cent of men who took the test.
Lavallee’s lawyer, Pab Chetty, argued that his client simply snapped out of jealousy.
“When he found his wife in those circumstances,” Chetty said, “he became unhinged.”
He pointed out that Lavallee has no criminal record, and claimed that the case is less serious than manslaughter. His client, he said, should be sentenced accordingly.
“If my client was charged with manslaughter, the sentence would be between four years and nine years,” he said. “But attempted murder surely should not be more serious than manslaughter itself.”
Judge Schiefner disagreed. He said that Lavallee was merely “lucky” that his victim didn’t succumb to her injuries.
Alexander said that, at trial, Lavallee showed a “lack of emotion.”
“The crown found it quite striking that at the trial,” she said, “he he seemed quite composed. He didn’t appear upset or tearful. He didn’t seem to be showing much emotion at that time.”
This time at least, Lavallee seemed shaken as he awaited his sentence. He stood up to deliver an apology.
“I would first like to say that I am truly and deeply sorry for my actions,” he said, “and the pain that I have caused everyone.
“I am full of regret every day,” he added. “I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that I have caused.
“I wish every day that this had never taken place and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Both of his parents addressed the court. His mother said her son is “a good man.” She recounted the abuse she suffered at residential schools, and her own struggles with alcohol. She suggested that her children were witnesses to the wages of her own trauma.
Judge Schiefner said he would take that history account.
“You have been impacted by your ancestry, even though I am satisfied that your parents did as much as they could to shield you from that and raise you properly,” he said. “It’s hard to escape your ancestry.”
But the judge also noted that Lavallee’s victim is aboriginal. He said he must be mindful of the broader context of the crime, especially as Canada deals with a crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.
He said Lavallee’s attack should be treated as a case of domestic violence.
“I heard from you at trial that you were concerned, shocked, horrified at finding a person you cared about in bed with someone else,” he said.
Alexander cited cases of domestic violence where offenders charged with attempted murder received sentences as high as sixteen years. Schiefner said that Lavallee’s case is different because he is aboriginal, and because he accepted some responsibility for his crime.
“I accept also that you pled guilty to aggravated assault,” he said. “And I do hear what you said, which I accept as genuine remorse.”
As the judge continued through his reasons, Lavallee’s father kept his hand on his son’s shoulder. His mother covered her face as she sobbed.
Judge Schiefner ordered Lavallee to stand as he read his sentence: 10 years in a federal penitentiary, with 30 days credit for time served. Lavallee is also required to submit a DNA sample, and will face a ban on the possession of firearms.