June 24th, 2024

15 years for vicious 2016 attack on Lethbridge woman

By None on June 16, 2018.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Heralddshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Lethbridge judge has sentenced Denzel Dre Bird to 15 years in a federal penitentiary for viciously attacking and sexually assaulting a woman as she walked to work nearly two years ago.

Judge Jerry LeGrandeur called Bird’s attack in 2016 a “horrifying act,” which left the woman and her family forever scarred.

“In this case, the level of violence was extreme,” LeGrandeur said Friday during sentencing in Lethbridge provincial court.

LeGrandeur rejected the Crown’s recommendation for 20 years however, and cited what he called mitigating factors — including a guilty plea, Bird’s tragic upbringing as an aboriginal and his remorse — which reduced his moral culpability.

“This offender is clearly remorseful,” LeGrandeur said.

Sentencing has been adjourned several times since Bird pleaded guilty nine months ago, when he admitted that on Sept. 30, 2016 he attacked the woman with a metal pipe and sexually assaulted her before dragging her into an alley and dumping her body into a residential garbage can.

The woman, who can’t be named under a court-ordered publication ban, doesn’t remember the attack, but court was told Sept. 8 of last year that after he struck her, she fell to the ground and hit her head, which, along with the blow to the head, fractured her skull and facial bones. The 26-year-old was found by two men who called 911.

The woman also sustained severe traumatic brain injuries and was in a medically induced coma for several weeks. Nearly a month after the attack she was moved from intensive care to a unit that could manage her traumatic brain injury, and over the next month she began improving neurologically. She was finally discharged from hospital in Calgary on Jan. 31, 2017.

Bird was arrested at a westside apartment building five days after the attack, and he told police he did not recall anything about the morning in question and that he had never seen the victim before. He claimed he never hurt her and he was drinking near some schools on the westside at the time of the attack. He eventually admitted his guilt, provided a re-enactment and described to police details of the attack.

The woman’s stepfather said following Bird’s sentencing hearing that any sentence, no matter how long, would likely never satisfy family members.

“There’s no sentence, really, in my mind, that would appease such an act; however, we have to be satisfied with what the legal system came up with, and as far as the Canadian justice system goes, justice was served and hopefully we don’t have to ever see the guy again,” he said outside the courthouse.

He said while his daughter is still recovering, she will never be the same.

“I can say she’s still progressing, but she’s going to be dealing with this for the rest of her life. The kid’s got a heart like a lion and she’s working hard to be all she can be, and we’re all, of course, all behind her.”

Defence lawyer Tonii Roulston had recommended a sentence of six to eight years, and following Friday’s hearing law student Jeanine Zahara told reporters Bird was visibly upset by the judge’s decision.

“He’s obviously very upset with the outcome,” Zahara said. “He was hoping for a sentence under the range of 10 years. He’s indicated that he will be appealing his sentencing.”

Although the judge didn’t agree with the Crown’s recommendation for 20 years, prosecutor Erin Olsen noted 15 years is a significant sentence.

“He’s a very young man yet and has a long life in front of him, and I think this is the kind of sentence that sends a message to the public but also, as the judge said, allows the potential for him to address some rehabilitation.”

Bird has also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of mischief, break and enter and breaching conditions of a court order. He was sentenced to 60 days on those charges, which will run concurrently with the 15-year sentence.

LeGrandeur subtracted from Bird’s sentence the equivalent 921 days he spent in custody waiting for his case to be resolved. Bird is also prohibited from possessing certain firearms and weapons for 10 years, and others for life, and he must submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Databank.

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