A confrontation over drugs that resulted in the killing of a 22-year-old Nanaimo mother almost two years ago has had lasting impacts on the dead woman’s family.
Emergency crews found Brittany Elsie Baird dead on Milford Crescent near Selby Street May 25, 2011, at about 11 p.m. Efforts to revive her failed.
Police charged Christopher James Robinson and Marcus Brandon Parry with second-degree murder, but several days before the trial was scheduled to begin in late February, Robinson, 26, entered an unexpected guilty plea to the charge and Crown counsel stayed proceedings against Parry.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life sentence with a minimum parole ineligibility period of 10 years and at Thursday’s sentencing hearing, the Crown asked for the minimum period, taking into account Robinson’s age, his aboriginal background and the guilty plea.
Crown counsel Frank Dubenski also read out five victim impact statements from family and friends of the deceased and shared comments the victim’s brother, Ashley Baird, made to prosecutors recently.
The brother, who met with Crown counsel before the sentencing hearing but did not provide an impact statement, told prosecutors about Brittany Baird’s attempts to get an apartment and money so she could regain custody of her one-year-old son, and how she turned to street-level drug trafficking to get the money needed.
“The choice was not one he was comfortable with,” said Dubenski, adding that Ashley tried to talk her out of it.
Parents Shirley and Ronnie Baird described their financial hardship since Baird’s death, as Shirley had to quit her job to raise her daughter’s son, as well as the mental trauma her death caused.
Ronnie is on medication for stress and Shirley wrote that she not only lost a daughter, but also a close friend. She has since had trouble sleeping and her mental health has been affected.
“I hurt each day and will forever,” reads her statement. “Every day I can’t help but think how she died and how desperately she wanted to live.”
Dubenski started Thursday’s court proceedings with the Crown’s factual overview of the case.
He said earlier that evening, Robinson was drinking with Parry and a female friend and decided he wanted some drugs, so he contacted Baird – the Crown believes he acquired her number from some other street source – and arranged to meet her in Nob Hill Park.
“During a brief, violent confrontation over the drugs, Ms. Baird was overpowered and stabbed by Mr. Robinson eight times,” said Dubenski.
He said stab wounds were directed at Baird’s chest, neck or head and five of the stab wounds were life-threatening, including one on the right side of her neck that lacerated the right carotid artery, adding that during the confrontation, Baird also inflicted a small laceration on Robinson’s back right shoulder, as she was also carrying a knife.
Dubenski said Parry and the female friend both stated that at the time of the murder, while they were in the park, they could not see what had happened but could hear a female screaming and all three fled the scene after.
He said Parry told police officers he knew Robinson was planning to rob Baird, but that he didn’t think Robinson was going to kill her.
Peter Hertzberg, Robinson’s lawyer, said his client maintains that he had a blackout which started when he was walking toward Nob Hill Park and his next recollection is after the trio had left the park.
He said what is clear is that Baird and Robinson were engaged in an altercation involving drugs and while it is not known who pulled a blade first, it does not matter, as Robinson’s actions exceeded what would have been necessary to defend himself.
Hertzberg said close to trial, Robinson decided to plead guilty to spare the Baird family further grief.
He also noted that there was no parental figure at the sentencing hearing to show support for Robinson, which is consistent with his history.
Hertzberg said Robinson has spent more time in jail than out of jail and feels uncomfortable outside of jail.
Dubenski noted that Robinson’s past record does not include any serious violence incidents.
Judge Miriam Maisonville ordered a pre-sentence report on Robinson that includes a component focusing specifically on his aboriginal background, to be ready in time for continuation of the sentencing hearing April 15.