Maple Ridge woman gets life sentence for stabbing

Leah Marie Florence has served three years already

A Maple Ridge woman who stabbed her husband to death three years ago during a domestic dispute will spend a minimum of seven more years behind bars.

Leah Marie Florence, 45, was convicted in May of the second degree murder of her husband Andrew Lynn Milne after a dispute on Nov. 3, 2009.

Florence was at New Westminster Supreme Court for sentencing on Thursday, when Crown counsel agreed to the mandatory life sentence.

With a minimum parole eligibility of 10 years served, Florence could be out of jail in as little as seven years. Florence has spent the past three years in custody at the Surrey Pretrial Centre.

However, Crown Counsel Theresa Iandiorio said Crown’s position is that Florence should receive a minimum of 13 years before being eligible for parole given the nature of the crime.

Florence and Milne were living in the home of Florence’s aunt, Patricia Burt, on Ospring Street in Hammond at the time of the murder. Burt had taken the couple in, as they were previously homeless, under the condition that there would be no fighting or drinking in the house.

But that’s exactly what happened the night of Milne’s death, as the couple drank three two-litre bottles of alcoholic cider before getting into a drunken argument. The fight turned violent, and Florence stabbed Milne 14 times. Florence was also wounded in altercation, requiring stitches for a cut on her arm.

Burt called 911 and police arrived to find 50-year-old Milne lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. He died later in hospital.

In her ruling, Madam Justice Jeanne Watchuk ruled that although Florence was drinking that night, she was not too intoxicated to form the intent to murder her husband.

“I find that Ms. Florence was not intoxicated and angry to such a degree that prevented her from intending to cause Mr. Milne bodily harm or seeing that the multiple stab wounds and cuts would cause his death,” said Watchuk.

A pre-sentence report detailed Florence’s aboriginal background for the court on Thursday.

Florence, a mother of two, is a member of the Katzie First Nation, but does not have her Indian Status.

In the report, Florence and her mother argued that Florence’s father’s inability to obtain his status contributed to his alcoholism and violent behaviour, of which Florence was a victim. Not having Indian Status prevented her from living on reserve, and alienated her from her family there, including her grandparents.

However, Iandiorio challenged the legitimacy of the report, which she argued lacked corroboration from police records, school records, and corrections records.

Iandiorio suggested Florence’s aboriginal background was not a mitigating factor in the crime as Florence hadn’t been sexually assaulted, wasn’t sent to a residential school, both of her parents were still in her life, her father was sober by the time Florence was 13 years old and the two had a close relationship, as well Florence admitted that she hadn’t felt discrimination or racism as a result of being aboriginal.

While the report noted that Milne had previously been charged with spousal assault, Iandiorio pointed out that he had never been convicted.

The sentencing hearing was adjourned until Friday, Nov. 23.