Talia Meguinis’ death has left a chasm in the lives of her heartbroken family.
Three boys lost a mother and others lost a sister, cousin, auntie and close friend when she was murdered in Red Deer almost five years ago to the day.
Sister Nellie Big Crow said Meguinis’ boys, aged seven, 10 and 12, are being cared for by their father and an auntie.
“They’re doing as best as they could,” said Big Crow on Thursday.
Meguinis was only 27 when she died in February 2012, her last son still a toddler.
“The youngest one is still on the reserve and he doesn’t want to forget his mom,” said Big Crow.
“(He) was her pride and joy, her youngest baby. It’s hard for him to grow up knowing that he doesn’t have somebody to lean on, somebody to cradle him and somebody to love him.”
In a Red Deer courtroom, family members told a sentencing judge how much Meguinis meant to them, how deeply her loss has been felt, and how dramatically their lives affected.
Nathan Desharnais was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 13 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Meguinis was visiting her aunt Chastity Rider at her Red Deer apartment when she was killed by Desharnais, who lived in an apartment across the hall.
Rider said she has been in therapy and taking medication ever since to cope with the emotional trauma.
“I’m scared to love or to have people in my life,” said Rider, who left Red Deer soon after the murder.
Sister Nellie Big Crow said she struggles with fear, knowing what happened to Meguinis came at the hands of a complete stranger.
“My sister was loved by so many,” she said, wearing a hoodie with Meguinis’ face stencilled on it. “Her carefree spirit and trust in others cost her her life.
“How I would give anything to hear her laugh and tell me I’m OK.”
Crystal Big Plume said she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since her sister died. She often wakes up crying.
Losing Meguinis was like losing her left arm and leg. Sometimes the emotional and physical pain of her loss is overwhelming, she said.
“I never got to say goodbye,” she said.
“I was robbed of being able to have a good last memory of her because she was murdered so suddenly.”
In a victim impact statement read by Crown prosecutor Ed Ring, cousin Yvette Meguinis said she met Talia every day to chat.
“It hurts to know that will never happen again,” she wrote.
“There’s a part of me that has been ripped out and replaced with pain.”
A candlelight vigil for Meguinis will be held at Tsuu T’ina First Nation on Feb. 20.