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Teen mom gets hard time

By Keith Lacey A Levack teenager will bring her first-born child into this world behind penitentiary bars.
By Keith Lacey

A Levack teenager will bring her first-born child into this world behind penitentiary bars.
Paul Kuchma

Crystale Belanger, 18, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the stabbing death of Paul Kuchma, 67, who was found dead in his West End apartment minutes after calling 9-1-1 just over a year ago.

Justice Ian Gordon agreed to a joint submission that Belanger be sentenced to a federal penitentiary for women for 42 months. He also ordered her to submit a DNA sample for a national crime data bank and prohibited her from owning or possessing any prohibited weapon or firearm for 10 years.

Gordon told Belanger, who is expecting in late May or early June, "no sentence can ever replace a life" and that she will have to live the rest of her life with the burden of knowing she is a convicted killer.

"This is a sentence that will follow you for the rest of your life," said Gordon. "You will have to tell your own children you killed a person...society will look down on you for the rest of your life.

"I have a strong belief this is a big part of your sentence."

Assistant Crown attorney Patricia Moore read in an agreed statement of facts detailing how Belanger was a drug addict and alcohol abuser at the time of Kuchma's death.

Kuchma, a father of seven, lived alone on a disability pension in his West End apartment.

Belanger, who had no permanent address at the time, was addicted to ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine, said Moore. She was an acquaintance of Kuchma's son Kevin.

In the days before the stabbing, Belanger had contacted Kuchma's son and told him she had no money and was willing to perform "sexual favours" for cash, said Moore.

On March 16, she phoned Kevin Kuchma again and told him she wanted to party. He told her he had to go somewhere else, said Moore.

However, Belanger showed up at the apartment of Kevin's father in the early afternoon. Three other acquaintances showed up and two other women noticed a long knife had fallen out of a coat worn by Belanger.

The same women noticed Belanger was getting drunk. Belanger bragged she had been partying for two or three weeks straight. Inside Kuchma's apartment, Belanger made several phone calls and drugs were mentioned during every conversation.

The women left, and later reported to police that Belanger appeared to be intoxicated, but not under the influence of any drugs.

Between 6:15 and 6:18 pm, Paul Kuchma phoned 9-1-1 and advised he'd been stabbed and told the operator "it was Crystale from Levack" who had stabbed him.

Ambulance crews arrived within minutes and police found a 20-centimetre blade had penetrated Kuchma's chest wall and hit his heart. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Belanger left the scene and told people she had stabbed a man. When she was arrested March 17, she admitted to stabbing Kuchma, said Moore.

Breath tests taken around 5 am showed no alcohol remained in Belanger's system. There were trace amounts of drugs.

Defence counsel Craig Fleming said his client was a good student who got into trouble late in her high school years partying with friends from Levack.

She tried hard drugs in July 2000 and within weeks was addicted, said Fleming. Since being charged, Belanger, who spent three months in custody before being granted bail last June, has completed a drug rehabilitation program. She plans to return to school and pursue an education.

Part of that education will likely involve narcotics counselling. Belanger wants to speak to young students about what can happen when you get involved and become addicted to hard drugs, he said.

Gordon called the circumstances surrounding Kuchma's death as tragic as he's heard in his many years on the bench.