Killer sentenced to life

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman has been given a life sentence for her role in the brutal rape and fatal beating of a 13-year-old girl on a golf course.

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman has been given a life sentence for her role in the brutal rape and fatal beating of a 13-year-old girl on a golf course.

Stephanie Bird, one of five people charged in the April 2005 killing of Nina Courtepatte, was initially given a 12-year sentence after she was found guilty of manslaughter.

But the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the conviction last December and ruled that the 22-year-old woman was guilty of first-degree murder.

Trial testimony suggested Bird struck the first blow and held Nina down during the rape, but Bird’s lawyer argued that she should be absolved of murder because she left the scene before the fatal beating began.

In a unanimous decision, the high court concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to show Bird, who was 17 at the time of the killing, had a change of heart.

Bird, who was convicted as a young offender and sentenced as an adult, has been behind bars for five years and will be eligible to apply for parole in another five.

“I’m glad she got life,” said Peacha Atkinson, Nina’s mother. “It makes it a little easier to take.”

Justice June Ross recommended Bird be allowed to remain in the Saskatchewan institution where she has been serving her time, rather than being placed in a maximum-security facility which is typical in cases where a person is given a life sentence.

Defence lawyer Colleen Connolly told Ross that Bird is doing “really well” in the programming she is taking.

Ross concluded it would be harmful to society if her efforts toward rehabilitation were interrupted.

Atkinson said she wasn’t pleased with the recommendation because she feels Bird does not deserve to be in such a “nice place” and suggested she is doing well simply for parole purposes and not out of any genuine remorse.

“She was cold. It’s like there is no remorse,” Aktinson said.

Bird was with a group of mall rats that lured Nina from West Edmonton Mall on the pretence of taking her and a friend to a bush party. Instead, she was brutally raped and beaten to death with a sledgehammer.

Court heard Bird hit the 13-year-old girl with a wrench as they were walking down a path to the golf course. Nina was then pinned down and sexually assaulted.