LETHBRIDGE – A sentence of life imprisonment with a parole ineligibility of 20-years has been handed to 24-year-old Austin Lane Vielle, for the 2015 murders of Clarissa English, Dakota English and Kyle Devine.
At the outset of a scheduled four-week trial on Monday, Jan. 8, Vielle pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder, with the Crown and defence offering a joint sentencing proposal. After taking a day to consider that recommendation, Justice Rodney Jerke ultimately accepted and imposed the sentence on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
While delivering his decision, Jerke called Vielle’s actions “senseless and brutal”, while reviewing the facts of the case that Vielle admitted to.
“Those facts tell a difficult, brutal and tragic story,” stated Jerke, who also referred to Vielle’s crimes as a “frenzy of violence.”
While noting mitigating factors, such as Vielle’s relatively young age and prior lack of a violent criminal record, Jerke also said that the guilty plea showed a visible demonstration of his remorse.
Following the decision, Laurie English, the mother of Clarissa and Dakota, addressed that finding.
“I can't accept that, right at the moment,” she told the media. “It feels a little good knowing that there is remorse, but I didn't see remorse myself, and that doesn't do anything to bring back my kids or the brutality of the way they were taken.”
After nearly three years, English says she will now try to take everything in and move forward, adding that she’s relieved to see the legal process concluded.
When asked about statements made by Vielle’s lawyer, Tonii Roulston, about his troubled and abusive upbringing, which traced back to his grandmother going to a residential school, English rejected that it could have been a factor in the murder of her children.
“Honestly, residential school happened a long time ago. All of us have things that happen to us from childhood,” she explained. “We all know right from wrong, and I'm not going to let that inter-generational, or boarding schools, be any part of what he's done, I don't agree with that.”
Crown prosecutor Vaughan Hartigan also addressed the media, discussing the impact this crime has had on the community.
“The tragedy is that three young people were cut down in the prime of their lives, with all their hopes and dreams unfulfilled, and now a fourth young man may well spend the rest of his life behind bars,” he stated.
Hartigan noted concern that an explanation had never been provided as to why Vielle killed his victims, as Vielle says he was intoxicated at the time and doesn’t remember what happened.
Roulston acknowledged those concerns, saying they apply to her client as well.
“These were his friends as well, and he stated that yesterday through me to Justice Jerke. And unfortunately, we are unable to provide any explanation that Austin has given us for the reasons for these horrific acts,” said Roulston.
“He's 24-years-old right now, so we anticipate he'll be eligible for parole sometime around the age of 41, 42,” she continued, going over Vielle’s efforts to turn his life around. “He's in an AA program – which is Alcoholics Anonymous – already working diligently within the remand centre, which is actually very challenging to do so.”
Roulston also touched on Vielle’s remorse, following up on a statement she had delivered to the court on his behalf during their sentencing proposals.
“Although he may not have showed it and he may have been a bit stoic, he was very emotional. I saw tears in his eyes,” said Roulston. “Today, Ms. McIntyre and I went downstairs and saw him, his response was, 'This seems very surreal.' But he is relieved to have this matter closed and to move on. What he did advise, is the same thing he advised yesterday, is hopefully this can move, when the families are ready, move towards some kind of healing.”
Facts of the case – WARNING: This section contains graphic details
As part of an agreed statement of facts provided to the court by the Crown and defence, it was revealed Vielle had been friends with all three victims, and had been observed with Dakota in the early morning hours of Apr. 27.
Shortly before 1 a.m., a taxi cab picked Vielle and Dakota up at a residence – where Dakota lived with his sister, Clarissa, and her boyfriend, Kyle – along McGill Boulevard West. The driver took them to several locations around Lethbridge to purchase alcohol and withdraw cash from ATMs.
At 2:05 that same morning, Lethbridge Police officers responded to a panic alarm at the Macs store in Columbia Boulevard West. The employee triggered the alarm because two males had become agitated when he wouldn’t sell them cigarettes because they didn’t have identification. Both individuals fled the scene before officers arrived, however, they were later identified as Vielle and Dakota, via the store’s video surveillance system.
From that point it’s not entirely clear what happened, but after returning to Dakota’s home, Vielle attacked the three victims, stabbing them repeatedly. Dakota sustained 57 stab or cut wounds to his neck, face, head and upper extremities and abdomen. Kyle suffered 84 stab and cut wounds to his neck, face, chest and upper extremities and abdomen. Clarissa was stabbed or cut 103 times with injuries to her face, neck, abdomen, extremities and pelvis.
Autopsies performed on the three victims determined that they had high blood alcohol levels.
Vielle said he was intoxicated at the time and has no recollection of what happened.
The victim’s bodies were discovered by a neighbour the next day, Apr. 28, and following an investigation, police identified Vielle as a person of interest. He voluntarily attended the police station on Apr. 29 for an interview.
Police noted what appeared to be blood on Vielle’s shoes after he turned them over – along with a DNA sample – and he was arrested for murder.
A search of Vielle’s home resulted in police finding blood staining in his room and basement, as well as blood stained clothing, along with two knife handles in the pockets of the sweat pants found in his home. The blood was later matched to the victims.
Vielle’s DNA was also located at the crime scene on a pair of knives and on a meat cleaver that also had Clarissa’s blood on it.
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