SHELTON, Wash. — An Abbotsford, B.C. man apologized to his family and told court his life was over after he was given a 55-year sentence in Washington State for killing his five-year-old stepdaughter.
Peter Wilson pleaded guilty last month to slitting Clare Shelswell’s throat after he and his wife argued over discipline.
The family was on holiday in June in Hoodsport, west of Seattle, when the girl was killed.
The sentence was double the standard term for the crime, but the prosecutor in the case, Gary Burleson, said he asked for the longer penalty because of the exceptional circumstances of the crime.
Clare was a vulnerable victim who trusted her stepfather and his crime will have lasting damage to her family, Burleson said in an interview Friday.
“This is a high-end crime. Killing a defenceless and helpless five-year-old child in the manner that it was done is a high-end crime. I myself recommended 50 to 60 years.”
The court heard that Wilson takes medication for bi-polar disorder, but Wilson also acknowledged he has trouble controlling his rage.
“He was very emotional, very contrite,” Burleson said.
“(He) indicated he wished he could trade his life for hers, recognized what he had done, recognized the consequence of what he’d done to himself, recognized the consequence of what he’d done to the family.”
Shelswell’s mother, Sarah Wilson, and her aunt also struggled with their emotions to deliver powerful victim impact statements, Burleson said.
Sarah Wilson told police after she and her husband argued, he told her “he would take care of it.” But then, she heard a scream and found her daughter in a pool of blood.
Investigators say Peter Wilson told them he knew he was going to kill Shelswell with a knife he found on the kitchen counter.
About 500 people attended Shelswell’s funeral in July and friends and family remembered her as a smiling child who was always ready with a hug.