Leslie Black gets 16-year sentence for attacking Marlene Bird

Marlene Bird and Patrick Lavallee after the sentencing hearing Friday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Marlene Bird clutched a tissue in provincial court on Friday. Hearing Leslie Black apologize, three years after he left her burning in a parking lot, brought tears to her eyes.

She learned that Black will serve a 16 year sentence for attempted murder, with credit for time served. He will then face a 10-year long-term supervision order.

In his sentencing judgement, Judge Stanley Loewen said the attack has caused “incalculable damage” to Bird, who lost both her legs. He called it an “infamous case in Saskatchewan,” and acknowledged that Black’s crime had shocked the broader community.

“I don’t think you could find anyone who would not have a significant amount of empathy for Ms. Bird,” he said. “It is also very disturbing to the community. Prince Albert is otherwise a good place to live and raise a family, and this kind of thing disturbs the peace and quiet of the community very significantly.”

In open court, Black said said he was “truly sorry” for what he did to Bird, who lost two legs to the attack.

She nodded her head as she listened to him speak.

“I liked that apology,” she said later. “I wanted him to face me to see if he really meant it.”

It feels good to see the long case finally come to an end, she told reporters. She said the attack has left her unable to take care of herself without the support of her partner and family.

During sentencing arguments, the defence acknowledged the severity of the attack. Black’s lawyer, Brian Little, admitted that the offence called for a “very lengthy sentence.”

“There is no playing down the brutality of this offence,” he said.

He suggested that 15 years in prison would be appropriate. A life sentence for attempted murder, he said, is “extremely rare.”

But the Crown argued that the crime called for a life sentence, and no less than 20 years in prison.

“It is the view of the Crown that Mr. Black should be separated from society for a significant period of time,” said prosecutor Jeff Lubyk. “I can’t emphasize enough to the court what a significant matter this has been for the Crown and the community.”

He focused on the “extremely severe injuries” that Bird had suffered, which he said left her with physical and psychological scars. He noted that Bird has attended court at nearly every stage of the proceedings, a testament to the lasting impact of the attack.

Little called for the judge to recommend that Black be incarcerated outside of Saskatchewan, due to the notoriety of his crime, and the threats he has already faced in jail.

“It would be best for this individual to get out of this province,” he said.

Loewen agreed. In his judgment, he recommended that Correctional Service Canada send Black to an institution outside the Prairie region. To become eligible for parole, he said that Black would have to convince the parole board that he is no longer a danger to the community. But given the “bizarre” nature of his crimes, he stressed that it would be difficult.

Black has already served 1,180 days in custody, as his case weaved its way through the courts. The judge gave him credit for that time, multiplied by one and a half. That shaves off 1,770 days – or almost five years – from his 16 year sentence.

Bird said she is satisfied with Loewen’s decision. She said she will try to forgive Black, one day. She said her mom always told her to “forgive people who do wrong.”

“I think I could forgive him,” she said.

For now though, she’s still “angry.” But she’s getting through it, going to counselling and relying on those close to her. Her partner, Patrick Lavallee, came to court. So did her niece. She said it felt good to have the support of family.

“I’m happy to be alive with my family and loved ones,” she said.