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Life sentence for northern mom who stabbed 11-year-old son 31 times

Courtney LaBelle was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder for the 2020 stabbing death of her 11-year-old son
Courtney Labelle
Courtney LaBelle was found guilty of second-degree murder for the 2020 stabbing death of her 11-year-old son. (File).

THUNDER BAY — The woman convicted of second-degree murder for stabbing her 11-year-old son 31 times will be remain behind bars for at least 15 years.

Courtney LaBelle, 37, appeared before Justice John Fregeau in a Thunder Bay Courtroom on Thursday for sentencing.

“The offence before the court was an unprovoked vicious killing of a child by a mother,” Fregeau said. “Such an offence is shocking by any community standards.”

A jury found LaBelle guilty of second-degree murder in September 2022 following a six-day trial. An order by the court prohibits the publication of the victim’s name.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence that in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2020, LaBelle stabbed her 11-year-old son 31 times before being tackled to the floor by her father.

A post-mortem examination determined several wounds penetrated the victim’s heart and lungs and he also suffered 10 defensive wounds to his arms and hands.

“The graphic conclusion to be drawn from this evidence was that [the victim] was conscious during this attack and was aware it was his mother who was stabbing him,” Fregeau said.

LaBelle testified in her own defense and told the court that she had no memory of the attack. A forensic psychiatrist also testified that LaBelle was experiencing a drug-induced psychosis that morning after consuming crack cocaine.

A second-degree murder conviction carries with it an automatic life sentence with parole ineligibility ranging between 10 and 25 years.

At a sentencing hearing held in April 2023, the Crown was seeking a period of parole ineligibility for 18 years, while the defense argued for the minimum period of 10 years.

Fregeau said the sentence must balance the need for deterrence and denunciation for what he described as a brutal and violent attack that broke the sacred trust between a mother and child, while also considering LaBelle’s moral blameworthiness in light of her background as an Indigenous offender and mental health at the time of the offence.  

Several aggravating factors were taken into consideration by Fregeau, particularly the ‘brutal manner’ of the offence.

“The violence inflicted upon [the victim] was excessive,” he said.

Fregeau added that the defensive wounds found on the victim also indicate that LaBelle would have known she was attacking her son who was trying to stop her but she continued until she was tackled by her father.

And while a lack of a guilty plea is not considered an aggravating factor, Fregeau noted LaBelle has not expressed remorse for her actions at any time prior to, during, or after the trial.

But Fregeau did point out several mitigating factors in this case, including LaBelle’s lack of any past criminal record and her background as an Indigenous offender as outlined in the Gladue Report that includes generational trauma from the Residential School system, exposure to substance abuse at a young age, and continued addictions from an early age.  

Her mental health issues were also cited by Fregeau, which he said contributed to the offence.

“The very difficult issue for me is how to balance Ms. LaBelle’s level of moral blameworthiness and the circumstances of this offence,” Fregeau said.

While Fregeau agreed with the Crown’s position that denunciation and deterrence must be one of the primary considerations when determining the sentence, he felt the 18-year period of parole ineligibility was, “unduly harsh and excessive.”

“The Crown has persuasively argued the need for denunciation and deterrence in this case,” Fregeau said. “However, I respectfully conclude the Crown’s position does not place sufficient weight on the mitigating circumstances or assess Ms. Labelle’s weight of moral blameworthiness.”

When taking into consideration LaBelle’s circumstances as an Indigenous offender and her mental health issues at the time, Fregeau said LaBelle’s moral blameworthiness is diminished and he must: “exercise restraint in parole ineligibility.”

But Fregeau also disagreed with the submission by the defense, saying the minimum period of 10 years, “places inordinate weight on the Gladue factors and Ms. Labelle’s mental health.”

Ultimately, Fregeau sentenced LaBelle to life in prison with a period of parole ineligibility for 15 years. LaBelle is also required to submit a DNA sample and is subject to a weapons prohibition for life.  

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