Sentencing hearing begins for man guilty of manslaughter in 2020 death of Billie Johnson

Victim impact statements were heard in an Edmonton courtroom Friday, where a sentencing hearing got underway for a man found guilty in the 2020 death of Billie Johnson.

Johnson, 30, disappeared on Dec. 24, 2020. Portions of her remains were found in a field north of Edmonton, near Bon Accord, four months later.

In September, Kenneth Courtorielle was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of the mother of two.

Johnson’s mother, Marless Johnson, held an eagle feather and pictures of her daughter as she read her statement to the court.

“My daughter was full of life,” she said. “She had something wonderful and special the day she was born.”

Marless said she’s had many sleepless nights since her daughter’s death.

“For your child to go missing and then found in pieces four months later is a different type of PTSD,” she said.

“I was determined to bring my baby home… I would talk to her spirit and tell her, ‘mommy is coming for you.’”

Marless said she will never recover from Billie’s death, and wants justice.

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“You robbed me of my first born in the worst way,” she said.

“You didn’t just murder my daughter, you murdered our whole family.”

Johnson’s sister Ariana Snakeskin’s victim impact statement was read by a lawyer. In it, she said she feels so angry that she’s withdrawn from a lot of people. She said she suffers from PTSD, which affects her ability to interact with others.

“I love you,” Snakeskin’s statement read. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there more and I couldn’t protect you.”

During the trial, the defence argued Courtorielle and Johnson did drugs together before she passed out with blood coming from her nose and mouth.

The defence said Courtorielle panicked and dropped her body in a field by some trees. The Crown argued that Johnson was punched in the face and that Courtorielle hid her body deep in the woods.

In his decision, Justice Steve Hillier said he considered “all the evidence adduced at trial, including the after-the-fact conduct.”

The justice said he was “convinced, from the evidence, that Ms. Johnson died as a result of one or more blows to her face by the accused, which broke her nose and damaged her crown tooth.”

During the trial, court heard Johnson’s blood was found in Courtorielle’s apartment – in the bedroom and living room. It was also found in a Dodge truck, even after it was washed.

“Although there is no evidence of intent to cause serious bodily harm to Ms. Johnson, this unlawful act of applying force to her face without consent was objectively dangerous. I am satisfied that the unlawful assault caused or substantially contributed to Ms. Johnson’s death,” Hillier wrote in his decision.

In court Friday, a lawyer read Michelle Howser’s victim impact statement. She is a representative from Maskwacis. She said Billie’s death devastated the First Nations community south of Edmonton.

“The shock, grief,” Howser said. “There’s been collective mourning.

“In the face of this tragedy, our community demands justice.”

In Canada, there is no minimum sentence for manslaughter. The maximum sentence is life in prison.

— more to come…

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