Convicted mother’s lack of remorse and mitigating factors considered in sentencing
THUNDER BAY — Courtney LaBelle, a woman convicted of second-degree murder for the brutal stabbing of her 11-year-old son, has been sentenced to a minimum of 15 years behind bars. The sentencing was handed down by Justice John Fregeau in a Thunder Bay Courtroom on Thursday, marking a significant development in a deeply tragic case.
Justice Fregeau characterized the offence as an unprovoked and vicious killing, noting that such an act is shocking by any community’s standards. LaBelle was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury in September 2022 after a six-day trial. The court has imposed an order preventing the publication of the victim’s name, respecting the sensitivity of the case.
During the trial, compelling evidence was presented, revealing that on January 1, 2020, in the early morning hours, LaBelle stabbed her 11-year-old son 31 times. It was only when her father intervened, tackling her to the floor, that the attack was halted. A subsequent post-mortem examination indicated that several wounds had pierced the victim’s heart and lungs, while defensive wounds were evident on his arms and hands.
Justice Fregeau underscored the distressing revelation that the victim was conscious throughout the assault, fully aware that his mother was inflicting the stab wounds. LaBelle, however, testified in her own defence, claiming no recollection of the attack. A forensic psychiatrist testified that LaBelle had experienced a drug-induced psychosis that morning, triggered by her consumption of crack cocaine.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with parole ineligibility ranging from 10 to 25 years. In April 2023, during the sentencing hearing, the Crown sought an 18-year parole ineligibility period, while the defence argued for the minimum term of 10 years.
Justice Fregeau meticulously considered various factors, including the need for deterrence and denunciation, the severity of the heinous and violent attack, LaBelle’s moral culpability, and her background as an Indigenous offender with mental health concerns at the time of the offence.
While acknowledging several aggravating factors, notably the excessive violence inflicted upon the victim and LaBelle’s lack of remorse throughout the trial, the judge also recognized certain mitigating elements. These included LaBelle’s absence of a criminal record, her Indigenous background, and the mental health challenges she faced. These factors contributed to a diminished level of moral culpability in Justice Fregeau’s assessment.
While agreeing with the Crown’s stance on denunciation and deterrence, Justice Fregeau deemed the 18-year parole ineligibility period sought by the prosecution to be unduly severe and excessive. Similarly, he disagreed with the defence’s proposal of a minimum 10-year term, considering it placed disproportionate weight on the Gladue factors and