The 88-year-old father of a woman brutally murdered in her home by her ex-boyfriend said he will probably never know the true extent of the emotional damage his daughter’s death has caused him.
As he read his victim impact statement to the courtoom, Leon Dumstrey-Soos said the loss of his daughter, Vesna Dumstrey-Soos three years ago on Jan. 4 outside of 100 Mile House, has given him immense pain, emotional anguish and trauma and will for the rest of his life.
“I have no words to express the loss of my daughter or how to be a normal, functioning person as a grandfather, great grandfather, friend or contributing citizen,” Leon said, as he fought back tears. “My sleep through the night is constantly interrupted with nightmares of this horrendous crime.”
On Jan. 21, 2019, Michael Martel pleaded guilty to second degree murder, which resulted in the cancellation of a trial. Last week, on June 28, Martel returned for his sentencing hearing in Williams Lake where Crown Counsel Sara Hopkins described the crime as a “brutal beating death.”
Vesna had extensive injuries, Hopkins said Friday, noting Martel taped her mouth and covered her head with a sweater during the attack. He later shot her four times, then shot and killed her dog and went home and shot his two cats.
Hopkins said Martel made no attempt to contact authorities after he’d killed Vesna, but went home, changed his clothes and slept. He then attended the 100 Mile House transfer station, before stopping to buy pizza and fled to Kamloops where he checked into a motel.
He turned himself in to police on Jan. 6, 2016 in Kamloops. The firearm he used to shoot Vesna has never been recovered.
Hopkins recommended the general principles of denunciation and deterrence should be taken into account when sentencing Martel.
“The photos from Vesna’s home depict a scene of violence and rage, a prolonged attack fuelled by alcohol and jealousy and anger,” Hopkins told the court.
She recommended life imprisonment, with no eligibility of parole for 17 years, a lifetime firearms prohibition and the requirement to provide DNA samples.
Martel, 49, stands about five feet nine inches tall.
He is stocky with a brush cut and on the day of the sentencing hearing was wearing a red prison uniform.
In her submission, defence counsel Kristy Neurauter said Martel was before the court with one of the “greatest offences imaginable.”
“His actions have obviously had a profound impact on Ms. Dumpstrey-Soos’s family and friends and their loss is clear in the reading of their impact statements.”
Neuraunter said Martel was “solely responsible” for the offence and “deeply remorseful.”
She outlined his history, which included being the product of a rape, and suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child.
Martel struggled for many years with addiction, depression and suicide and was diagnosed with substance abuse disorder, she said.
In prison he used opioids three times in early 2016, but has remained clean since. He has taken an eight-week violence prevention course, and been assaulted in prison, with the most recent assault in 2017.
“He is working on the underlying issues that led to this offence,” Neuraunter said, recommending his life sentence should include no eligibility for parole for at least 12 years.
Before adjourning the hearing, Supreme Court Judge Marguerite Church asked Martel if he wanted to say anything to the court.
As he stood up inside the prisoner’s box to speak, Martel could only sob.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I don’t know. I can’t talk — I’m sorry — at this time.”
Church said there is a great deal of public interest in the outcome of the trial.
“I heard through the victim impact statements the frustration in the delayed court appearances and the delay in these proceedings,” Church said. “I would like to say that I could impose sentence today, but I cannot and need an opportunity to consider, contemplate and think about everything I’ve heard here today.”
She set the sentencing date for Thursday, Aug. 15 in Williams Lake.
Vesna was 37 when she died and had been working as a child development consultant at the Cedar Crest Society in 100 Mile House.
Her sister, Tania Dumstrey-Soos died in May 2007, at the age of 32, after being mauled by a pet Siberian tiger belonging to her boyfriend at an exotic animal park in Bridge Lake.
Outside the courtroom, Leon said his daughter, Vesna, was the type of person that tried to help people, and he was always worried about her while she was in a common-law relationship with Martel, living with him and his son, on Norman Road.
When the relationship ended in the latter part of 2015, Martel and his son moved out and were living less than one mile away.
Vesna’s friend Nicole Tremblay-Antonyshyn, in her victim impact statement, said she visited with Vesna in October 2015, and saw how happy she was to be starting a new life.
“She was finally getting her own legs and standing up for herself,” Tremblay-Antonyshyn said. “The sorrow I feel when I think of all the things Vesna was planning to do that she never will be able to do. Everything she was planning to do was taken away from her.”
Statement of facts and admissions presented to the court on Jan. 19, 2019 showed in the latter part of 2015, Vesna began a relationship with Trevor Todorwich who was living in Williams Lake.
On or about Dec. 19, Martel became aware Vesna was seeing another man.
When Martel arrived at Vesna’s home on the night of Jan. 3, 2016 at about 9 p.m. she was playing a video game with Todorowich who was in Williams Lake at the time.
Leon said Vesna had invited him to move from Kitimat and live with her in 100 Mile House, which they had planned for the end of February 2016.
“She wanted me to come earlier, and called me on Christmas Eve, but I was diagnosed with bone cancer just before Christmas and wasn’t able to,” Leon said.
“That’s something I will have to live with for the rest of my life: wondering if I could have saved her.”