By James Turner, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – A woman who stabbed her 89-year-old neighbour 68 times for no apparent reason says she is not a monster but was “in a very bad state” after going off her medication weeks before.
Melissa Joyce Gabriel, 37, made the comments in a handwritten statement delivered by her lawyer after Gabriel was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years for the manslaughter of Dorothy Dykens.
Dykens was found dead in her Winnipeg home in May 2015, a bent knife blade still in her back.
“Jail is a lonely place and I will be here for a very long time,” Gabriel wrote.
“I understand that an apology will never make things right and I do not expect forgiveness from the victim’s family, but they should know I am haunted by my own thoughts when I think about what happened.”
The sentence was five years longer than the seven years Gabriel’s lawyers had requested from provincial court Judge Ryan Rolston. It fell short of the 15 years the Crown was seeking.
Rolston described the killing of Dykens as a vicious, random attack on an extremely vulnerable victim. She lived alone and had few relatives, court heard.
Gabriel had long been aware of her propensity to get violent when drinking, the judge said. That, combined with her history of mental illness, made her “a ticking time bomb.”
“Until these problems are met head on, you remain a danger to yourself and others,” said the judge, speaking directly to her in the prisoner’s dock.
It was Gabriel who called 911 several times and alerted police to what had happened. She told the dispatcher she had “cut someone’s neck … because (the victim) was suffering,” Crown attorney Sharyl Thomas told court at an April hearing.
“She says she stabbed her and stabbed her. She said she killed the lady across the street.”
Officers found blood-soaked knives as they walked up to Gabriel’s rental suite and a poodle-type dog that had been stabbed hiding underneath the porch.
Inside, Gabriel was “obviously intoxicated” with liquor bottles surrounding her on the floor. At the time, she was on court-ordered probation and barred from drinking.
Not long after taking Gabriel into custody, police found Dykens’s body in her own home with Gabriel’s cellphone underneath her.
“This isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last,” Gabriel told police in a 10-hour recorded interview.
Gabriel has numerous mental-health disorders, including anti-social personality disorder, Thomas said. “In layman’s terms, that’s a psychopath.”
The combination of excessive drinking and her mental-health issues has been dangerous, Rolston said, with doctors diagnosing her as having alcohol-induced psychosis.
The judge pointed to Gabriel’s lengthy criminal history of 55 convictions, including 11 for violence.
He said pre-sentencing reports left him with the impression “she had buried her head in the sand” with regards to treatment for her alcohol abuse. “As a result, Ms. Gabriel was allowed to let her afflictions go unchecked.”
Rolston noted Gabriel’s troubled upbringing on Manitoba’s Skownan First Nation, where she was subjected to physical abuse, poverty and displacement.
She was also the victim of a brutal assault in 2006, which came after five years of relative stability in her life. In that time, Gabriel obtained her high school diploma and attended a year of college.
It’s important to focus on the role Gabriel’s mental illness played, defence lawyer Matt Gould said after court concluded.
“It’s been a theme throughout,” Gould said. “And I think that everybody recognizes that, but for that mental illness, this never would have happened.”