One of Loretta Saunders' admitted killers plans to appeal her self-inflicted murder conviction.
In two surprise guilty pleas last April, Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette halted the process of jury selection and told Nova Scotia Justice Josh Arnold they murdered the 26-year-old Inuk student who, before her death, was working on her thesis about missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Leggette went first, pleading guilty to first-degree murder, and Henneberry followed him, entering her own guilty plea to second-degree murder. Both of them told the judge they were entering their pleas freely and not under duress.
Now, according to new court documents, Henneberry says she was "distraught, under a great deal of stress and panicked" when she entered her plea.
She missed the 30-day appeal window, and has filed documents asking to have that window extended. She wants a new "fair and impartial" trial by a judge instead of a jury, the Chronicle Herald reported.
Loretta Saunders' brother Edmund Saunders told VICE this week he didn't think she deserved any sympathy.
"She changed her plea to a guilty plea and now she's appealing her own plea," he said over the phone from Hopedale, Labrador.
"She said she wasn't in the right frame of mind. What frame of mind was she in when she killed Loretta? What frame of mind are my parents in now since that happened? They're not in the right frame of mind either now, and it's thanks to her actions. I don't think that she deserves any kind of pity."
According to an agreed upon statement of fact Henneberry submitted at trial, Leggette suffocated Saunders with plastic and Henneberry admitted she helped him.
In January 2014, the couple subletted Saunders' apartment. They were worried about money and wanted to leave Halifax. Henneberry said she knew Leggette's plan to kill Saunders, steal her car and flee the province.
In a video Leggette recorded on his phone before the murder, Henneberry tells him, "You can't even say that you really want to kill Loretta. You said that you really want to kill her earlier today." The video was released by the courts following the trial.
The morning of February 13, Saunders went to collect rent from Henneberry and Leggette. The couple didn't have the money, but Henneberry admitted in court that she lied to Saunders and said she lost her bank card. Saunders sat on the couch while Henneberry pretended to go call the bank.
Leggette then came up behind Saunders and choked her. She fought him, and he tried to smother her with three different plastic bags, but she ripped through each one. He knocked her head on the floor twice, and she stopped moving. Then he covered her head in saran wrap.
After Leggette placed her body in a hockey bag and tidied up the living room, the couple packed their belongings and drove away in Saunders' car.
When police and her family tried to locate the missing woman, Henneberry lied to them about where she was. She texted Saunders' boyfriend from her cell phone, pretending to be her.
Following the two guilty pleas, prosecutor Christine Driscoll said the Crown had a good chance of convicting Henneberry on the second-degree murder charge.
"We felt we had a realistic prospect of conviction on Mr. Leggette for first-degree murder," she told media outside the courtroom. "In something like this there's always a risk with the jury of an outright acquittal, a finding of a different level of responsibility. With Ms. Henneberry, we had a realistic prospect of conviction on second-degree murder."
After the conviction, a judge sentenced Henneberry to life in prison. She can apply for parole after 10 years. Leggette was also sentenced to life in prison. He's eligible for parole after 25 years.
"After the sentencing I was quite overwhelmed by the ordeal but still had planned to appeal," Henneberry states in court documents, according to CBC. "My thoughts towards the appeal have not changed and I still aspire to follow through with the process."
Henneberry's application for an extension of her appeal deadline will be heard in court July 29.
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