TORONTO — A middle-aged man who lived an ordinary life for decades after raping and killing his frail 70-year-old neighbour deserved the adult life sentence handed him when he was finally brought to justice for the grisly crime he committed as a 15-year-old, Ontario’s highest court ruled Tuesday.
In upholding the sentence, the Court of Appeal found the punishment given Christopher Ellacott reasonable and proportionate given the savage killing.
“He sexually assaulted and murdered his elderly, vulnerable neighbour. He went on as though nothing had happened, avoiding justice for nearly 30 years,” the Appeal Court said. “There is no explanation for his crime; no sense of what motivated him to have committed so heinous an act.”
Court records show Ellacott, a high school student, occasionally did household chores for Velma Thomson, of Petrolia in southwestern Ontario, who had suffered a stroke. In mid-October 1983, the 90-pound hairdresser was found at home, partly nude and lying in a pool of blood. An autopsy found several stab wounds to her heart and her jugular vein cut. She had likely been raped and sodomized, according to the records.
The case went cold for years until a random check at a fingerprinting convention allowed police to link a thumbprint from the crime scene to Ellacott. Police then secretly obtained DNA samples from him. They arrested Ellacott in 2008 in Owen Sound, Ont., and charged the working father of two, who had no convictions, with Thomson’s first-degree murder and rape.
A jury in Sarnia, Ont., convicted him in April 2012 and in March 2013, Superior Court of Justice John Desotti sentenced the then-45-year-old as an adult, as the Crown had requested. Ellacott was given life without parole eligibility for seven years, and a lifetime supervision order.
Ellacott, who abandoned his conviction appeal, challenged the sentence. He argued he should have been punished as a youth, which means he would have received a maximum six years behind bars as opposed to the minimum seven he was given, and only a four-year period of supervision.
Desotti made several errors, Ellacott argued, among them not properly considering his age.