News / Halifax

Pair get life in prison for murdering Loretta Saunders, judge calls killing 'despicable'

The two people convicted of killing Loretta Saunders have been sentenced to life in prison for a crime the judge called “cowardly and pointless.”

Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry stood in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon to receive their automatic life sentences for pleading guilty in Saunders death.

Leggette received the automatic 25 years before being eligible for parole for first-degree murder, while Henneberry was handed 10 years ineligibility for second-degree.

“Loretta Saunders had a bright and hopeful future ahead of her,” Justice Josh Arnold told a packed court of Saunders family, friends and supporters.

“This was despicable, horrifying, cowardly, and pointless.”

That morning, Crown prosecutor Christine Driscoll read the agreed statement of facts that detailed how Leggette killed Saunders by suffocating her, at which sobs could be heard from the front row where Saunders’ parents sat.

Driscoll put forward a joint recommendation between the Crown and defence of 10 years before Henneberry could be eligible for parole, which Arnold later accepted.

The court proceedings were often emotional for Saunders’ parents, Miriam and Clayton Saunders, who had their arms around one another, and other siblings and family members who were often heard crying and left court.

Both Henneberry and Leggette apologized to the family in court, Leggette saying they are always in his prayers.

“I am sorry I stole Loretta from you,” he said, his voice steady.

Over a dozen victim impact statements were read in court, with Miriam struggling through her tears to talk about her pain and the daughter she lost in her own statement, while also reading her husband’s and other family members when they were overwhelmed.

“There is nothing anyone can say or do to take this unbearable pain away," Miriam read.

Delilah Saunders, Loretta’s sister, glared at Henneberry and Leggette as she sat to deliver her statement, before launching out of the chair and running across the court and out the door, screaming at the two convicted murderers.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” Delilah yelled, her voice breaking. “You stole my sister.”

Justice Arnold outlined information from the defence on Leggette and Henneberry’s lives, which said they had both suffered sexual and mental abuse from a young age, Leggette spending time in foster care or with his father in Europe when he turned 15 and worked manual labour jobs.

Henneberry also was in foster care and developed substance abuse issues, the judge said. Information from her psychological assessment showed evidence of a “borderline personality disorder” and anti-social disorder, he said.

Arnold cited writings Leggette had made in prison to his cellmate for a potential book, where he described how he enjoyed killing Saunders and could again.

“It doesn’t bother me. I think I wanted to do it, as much as Victoria wanted me to,” the judge quoted.

Clayton Saunders, Loretta’s father, spoke with tears in his eyes to reporters after the sentencing about how 10 years of parole ineligibility for Henneberry doesn’t seem like enough and he would like to see “the death penalty come in.”

“They haven’t got a right to breathe the air what we breathe because they took the life of my daughter and my grandchild,” he said.

“They murdered her without mercy, and I think we should have no mercy on them.”

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