A young woman serving a sentence for second-degree murder has been denied a request to end her prison sentence so she can return to her Aboriginal community and take steps to attend the University of Manitoba. The 20-year-old woman, who cannot be named because she was a minor at the time, was one of two teens convicted in the April 2017 death of Serena McKay.
McKay, a 19-year-old high school student, was beaten by two classmates at Sagkeeng First Nation and left outside to die. A graphic video of the attack was later shared on social media. A pathologist testified at the accused girl’s trial that McKay likely died of hypothermia and was unable to seek refuge from the cold due to his injuries and high alcohol content in his system.
The woman, who requested early release, was sentenced to 40 months of preventive detention in June 2018, followed by a further 23.5 months of conditional surveillance. Serena McKay’s mother hugged a family member outside court during a sentencing hearing for the now 20-year-old woman, who was convicted of murder. (Jill Kubler/CBC)
Provincial Court Judge Rocky Pollack, who originally sentenced her, also denied a request for early release. In his Aug. 26 written decision, Pollack said the woman “still does not appreciate the magnitude of her consequences.”
He said she took steps to remove negative influences from her life, ending a bad relationship with the father of her four-year-old son and with a friend who played a minor role in the events that led to McKay’s death.
The woman, who is also involved in an ongoing program to support Aboriginal offenders, graduated from high school in prison and has been described as a role model for Manitoba youth centers and now works at the Laundromat at the Women’s Correctional Centre. Headingley is an adult facility. She was transferred there in November.
The request for early release said the 20-year-old would have strong family support from her mother and grandmother, who were in court throughout the trial and whom she had visited.
But their behavior wasn’t entirely commendable, Pollack said.
She forged a youth center worker’s signature to post a letter in the mail, found out she was getting tattoos, joined a group that refused to obey lockdown orders and was fined for not taking her medication.
A progress report by the probation officer said the woman remained vulnerable to being misled by others, while a review by the traditional knowledge custodian at the Women’s Correctional Center said the woman was “struggling with self-acceptance” and “giving up her values”. used to gain approval from others. “
Pollack also cited a handwritten document titled “Story of My Life” written by the woman. In it she wrote of the night of the murder:
“A couple of drinks turned into a weekend of binge drinking. It was such a shock to wake up on Monday and find myself involved in a murder. I don’t remember much about that weekend, but watched a friend show me The video, it felt brutal. I sat down and denied everything because I’m not a violent person.”
Pollack said it wasn’t the first time he’d read from her pen that tried to put distance between her and the murder. Last year, she wrote, “the behavior I participated in should not have ended in this way”.