Answers needed in Malcolm domestic-violence murder case

(Sandi-Lynn Malcolm/Facebook)

The provincial government, Justice Minister Andrew Swan and those sitting on the provincial domestic violence Death Review Committee must turn their minds to investigating what happened to Sandi-Lynn Malcolm.

Nothing short of a full and frank examination into how a young aboriginal girl can be serially abused by her ex-partner on a small reserve — only to end up brutally killed by his hands, will suffice.

It’s my view the public should be protesting — as Malcolm’s family and friends have done — to bring attention to her case in hopes of rooting out others like it before it’s too late.

What happened to this girl should not have happened and we should be sickened by it. 

After sitting with the facts of Malcolm’s killing for only a short time now, I believe she was failed on a fundamental level, for a number of reasons:

She lived in an isolated environment that had few resources or opportunities for intervention.

Warning signs — including those expressed through her own words to police — that something awful was going to happen weren’t heeded to the degree they should have.

And, (I suppose it goes without saying) Malcolm suffered a fatal consequence in her continued association with a violent human being who urged her to “trust him.”

He repaid her undeserved trust with unspeakable violence.

She was only 17 years old, though. A kid. We can’t lose sight of this.

Answers must be sought.

Here’s why.

“There. I done what had to be done.” — Ronald Racette Jr.

On the night of Jan. 30, 2010 RCMP who police the Ebb and Flow community got a call from Malcolm’s mother, saying her teen daughter was covered with cuts and had black eyes.

Sandi-Lynn gives an official statement, in which she alleges her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Racette Jr., 19, had brutally assaulted her at his father’s home. He punched her, hit her with a lamp, whipped her with the lamp’s cord and then tried to choke her with it.

A check of Racette’s record on CPIC would have alerted police to the fact of his prior domestic-abuse history.

“I should just kill you,” she reported Racette Jr. as telling her. There were no other witnesses, she told police, who photographed her bruises and cuts.

Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 8, Sandi-Lynn picks up the phone wanting to report the violence Racette Jr. put her through a day prior .

She gives another statement: Sandi-Lynn, covered in bruises, tells RCMP that her vow to stay away from Racette Jr. collapsed when he phoned her, pitifully saying he hadn’t eaten in two days.

“She said she had a soft heart and felt sorry for him,” court was told. “He told her to trust him … she did.”

Sandi-Lynn brings Racette Jr. something to eat. They were “getting along fine,” she said.

But when she said she had to go to work on her resume — she hoped to get a job as a cashier in a store — he grew angry.

While out for a walk, Sandi-Lynn was made to run through deep snow, was knocked down and kicked and pummelled while being accused of being unfaithful while he was in jail.

“She told him she didn’t want to die like that.”

Sandi-Lynn’s next words to police were alarmingly prophetic:

“Everybody had told her not to take him back because the next time, he’ll kill you, but she didn’t listen,” court heard of her police statement.

A raging Racette Jr. continually asked her if “she wanted to die.”

“I should just kill you and kill myself,” he said. They were near a creek in the community. He threatened to just throw her in there, “where no-one would find her.”

Sandi-Lynn’s survival skills kicked in. She offset his volatility by “pretending to love him” — putting on a “big front” in hopes of getting away from him alive.

He kept beating her, and made her stay outside, shoeless, in the freezing cold. “She said she felt like she was being kept hostage or something,” RCMP heard.

Racette Jr. wasn’t drinking, Sandi-Lynn said.

After giving her statement, RCMP set out to look for him. At the second community home they came to, Racette Jr. is seen fleeing into some bushes.

Cops chased him on foot but couldn’t catch up. A warrant issues but he’s not caught.

He’d re-emerge just over two weeks later for his last night of freedom.

A recounting of Sandi-Lynn’s last hours were presented to the court through witness testimony from people who were around Sandi-Lynn in her last hours and minutes.

On the evening of Feb. 26, Sandi-Lynn and a group of girlfriends scored a 30-pack of beer, but didn’t set about drinking heavily. She used the phone at one point, and reported the party was happening at Racette Jr.’s dad’s home.

It’s believed she was talking to Racette Jr. in this call. He turned up not long after.

Before he came to get the girls and their remaining 24 cans of beer, Sandi-Lynn asked her friends to “watch over her and not let him be alone with her.”

He picked them up in a nondescript “black car.”

Instead of driving directly to the party, Racette Jr. took a route past a local cemetery and stopped the vehicle.

“This is where we are all going to end up,” he said.

A ‘trail of knives’

Once at the party, it didn’t take long for Racette Jr. to become irate. Sandi-Lynn refused him a request to go alone with him to another room.

Not long after, Sandi-Lynn and another friend were horsing around, just being girls. “She’s my girl now,” the friend joked to Racette Jr.

Racette Jr. responds by punching the friend in the face four times, an assault only stopped after others intervened to pull him off.

He goes outside for a few moments. Returns. Another request of Sandi-Lynn is made for the two to be alone. Another refusal from her.

This. The last straw. He tosses an ashtray in her direction and begins grabbing knives.

“A number of people went and hid in Ronald Sr.’s bedroom because they feared something terrible was going to happen,” Justice Midwinter was told.

They had no idea how awful it was going to get. Sandi-Lynn and another woman who had come to collect her young son from the home fled to a bathroom.

Another witness reported seeing a “trail of knives” leading to the bathroom door.

‘The cops are coming’

I won’t recount what happens next, other than to say a jealous and enraged Racette Jr. committed acts of such brutal and extreme violence on Sandi-Lynn that hearing the extent of her injuries was truly jarring.

47 stab wounds don’t even amount to half of the total number of injuries a pathologist totalled up. Dr. Charles Littman noted 105 “incidents of trauma” on her.

One of Sandi-Lynn’s friends tried to stop the attack by stabbing Racette Jr. in the back as he murdered the teen. It only served to anger him more.

“He looks at her with an evil look and went charging after her.”

He made his way to his father’s bedroom — they unlocked the door to let him in — where people cowered in fear. Children had to be out out the window for fear of their safety.

“Why did you do that? You killed that girl,” his dad told him. “You better get out of here, the cops are coming.”

Racette Jr. didn’t reply. He went back to the bathroom where Sandi-Lynn was and turned on the shower.

A witness says he left the house shortly after, leaving these haunting words in the gloom:

“There. I done what had to be done.”

Efforts to revive Sandi-Lynn didn’t work. It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

Police caught up with Racette Jr. at his aunt’s home, where he was wrapped in a blanket, being comforted by a relative.

 ‘Our little reserve is not a war zone’

There was little defence lawyer Todd Bourcier could say in defence of what Racette Jr. did — acts the now 21-year-old pleaded guilty to doing.

But Bourcier raised some credible points about the lack of intervention and other resources in the community for domestic abusers and abuse victims alike.

The nearest women’s shelter from Ebb and Flow (on-reserve population of 1,200 or so) is in Dauphin, a distance of 50 kilometres away.

Options for counselling for men is limited, even to address what he termed the “surface concerns” for offenders with histories of abusing their partners.

And certainly nothing to address Racette Jr.’s specific needs as an angry, jealous, ill-educated, booze-and-drug abusing violent offender of a horrible background, now convicted murderer.

There’s one band constable on reserve, and the nearest RCMP detachment is in St. Rose du Lac, about 35 or 40 kilometres away, according to an online description of the band’s operations.

Despite the small number of people living in the community, between December, January and February, cops responded to 465 service calls, 78 of them regarding violence, Bourcier said.

It goes without saying Sandi-Lynn’s family and friends have been wrecked by not just her death, but also how she died. She was just weeks away from her 18th birthday.

I was there at the Manitoba Legislature a few days after Racette Jr. was charged with her murder when Sandi-Lynn’s relatives and friends travelled the 300 k.m. into the city to hold a candlelit vigil and peaceful protest to condemn domestic violence.

(Malcolm’s family and friends hold candlelight vigil at the legislature)

“Our little reserve is not a war zone. Things like this should not happen,” her dad, Kingsley Malcolm, told me at the time.

They did the same thing in 2011, this time, her cousin calling for more attention to be paid to what happened:

“At the time of Sandi’s death the Olympics were closing, so there was not much coverage about her. We needed to bring it to the public’s attention,” she said. “I felt I needed to do this so we could honour her and bring people together to support one another. (from missingmanitobawomen.blogspot.ca published Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011)

Racette Jr.’s sentencing judge, Justice Brian Midwinter, was clearly aggrieved at the underlying circumstances informing Sandi-Lynn’s death, telling the gallery:

 There were no resources in the community for Mr. Racette to access … and I have to deal with a vicious attack unprovoked by anything the victim did.

Would it be too much of a stretch to believe that the simply sad domestic-violence resource situation in Ebb and Flow is markedly different from countless other isolated Manitoba communities out there?

Today, using the only tiny power I have — this forum — I’m calling on the Manitoba government to task its domestic violence Death Review Committee to investigate Sandi-Lynn’s murder, the circumstances that led up to it and issue a public report on its findings. 

Further reading:

Father of slain teen condemns domestic abuse

Missing and Murdered Manitoba Women on the Malcolm case

Sandi-Lynn Malcolm Obituary

Domestic violence on the docket

Domestic violence: Province of Manitoba

Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (Free Press, update article in 2011)

Province announces Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (2010)

SHAWN LAMB: Where does the buck stop in Manitoba Justice?

(Carolyn Sinclair, one of Lamb’s alleged victims)

After having a couple of days now to be immersed in the information on suspected city serial murderer Shawn Cameron Lamb, there’s still so many more questions than answers.

And it’s not the usual questions eating away at me.

For me, and I admit it’s really gotten under my skin, the number one thing that’s been eating away at my mind is:

Why was Lamb free prior to the full expiry of his 19-month jail sentence (from May 26, 2010).

He served only 13 of the months despite his horrendous record.

But more importantly:

Why was a provincial judge’s order regarding how Lamb’s sentence should be served either totally ignored or at least countermanded by Manitoba Corrections?

It’s a little convoluted, but please bear with me – the context is uber-important.

In January 2009, Lamb got a major break from Judge Wanda Garreck: an 18-month long conditional sentence and three years of probation (supervised) for an attempted robbery of a mom who simply happened to be in the area pushing her baby near where Lamb was smoking crack.

As it’s often touted, a CSO is “a jail sentence” where a criminal is allowed to serve it in the community, usually tied to several stringent conditions which are supposed to be supervised and enforced by a “sentence supervisor” and probation officers.

Breaching CSO conditions is supposed to lead to immediate rearrest and incarceration and the possibility of having the remainder of the CSO terminated and turned into real jail time in a real locked jail.

Some of Lamb’s CSO conditions included: mandatory counselling, mandatory residential rehab, Narcotics and Alcoholics anonymous provisions, 100 hours of community service, no drugs, no drinking, seeking and maintaining employment or schooling, medical or psychiatric treatment as directed.

Most importantly, it included a strict curfew, structured as follows:

First 6 months: Absolute. 24-7 curfew.

Second 6 months: 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Third 6 months: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

So. Lamb walks out of the Remand that day and roughly a week later is re-involved, or as the Crown put it: “He gets right back to work.”

Lamb swipes a Ford Taurus from a banquet hall and then forges signatures on 9 cheques stolen from inside the vehicle. He’s not arrested right away because police didn’t immediately recognize him on surveillance tapes.

He’s not arrested until April 2009, not until after he’s committed two “opportunistic” violent robberies and admits he’s been using crack while out on his conditional release.

Anyhow, he sits in jail for 13.5 months until that fateful day when Lamb appears before Judge Linda Giesbrecht on May 26, 2010.

She’s told of his horrendous record, the facts of his slew of crimes and given a complete breakdown of how many violent convictions he’s had.

Giesbrecht said Lamb’s rap sheet was “coming very close” to the worst she’d ever seen.

Lamb, when given the opportunity, goes on an extremely lengthy tirade about how he’s changed, the steps he’s taken to correct his life; that he was “doomed to fail” when he was granted the CSO in 2009 because things didn’t immediately fall in place for him as expected.

He’s taken responsibility and doesn’t want to hurt anyone any more, he says.

(Remember, Lamb’s been in front of 45 or more sentencing judges since 1976. He’s old hat at how things work by now.)

A joint recommendation for a sentence is proposed, and accepted for guilty pleas to 16 charges.

The sentence was: 13.5 months of time-served at double time credit (27 months), 19 months going forward, and an order that the remaining months of the previous conditional sentence (Y’know, the one he totally breached within a week or so of being out on it) would not start up again until he was released from jail on the new 19-month term. 

Importantly, the Crown stayed an allegation he breached the conditional sentence order. This is key. The CSO was not converted into jail time.

It was simply suspended — held “in abeyance” is how it was put in court. There was discussion between the lawyers as to whether this was the case, and it was agreed: The clock on the CSO stopped ticking when he was rearrested and was not completed.

In pronouncing Lamb’s sentence, Giesbrecht couldn’t have been more direct as to her wishes.

“It’s clear when you’re released the conditional sentence — whatever’s left of that — starts up, and that will be a considerable restriction on your liberty,” she said. “There’s going to be lots of help for you in the community when you’re released.”

She repeated same a few minutes later:

“That (CSO) will not run while you continue to serve your 19-month sentence … and whatever is remaining (13-14 months) will continue to run after you’re released for your 19-month sentence.”

But it didn’t. The province confirmed as much on Tuesday.

Seemingly adding insult to injury, Lamb — despite his extensive record of giving his middle finger to the law — still got automatic “earned remission,” and had six months lopped off his jail time.

So much for community supervision. So much for Giesbrecht’s ruling.

I asked the province the following prior to writing on this in Wednesday’s Winnipeg Sun.

“Just wondering about that request I asked for on Shawn Lamb’s release date last year?
Also, is there a chance I could please speak with someone in corrections about this case?
Upon his release last year, Lamb was supposed to have completed the remainder of an 18 month conditional sentence handed to him in January 2009 (he was rearrested a few months (after)  it started and held in abayance until his 2010 sentence was complete.
Wondering if that’s the case here.”

Here’s the two sentence response I got:

LAMB was released on June 24, 2011 (including 27 months of remand credit).
On the question of serving out the Conditional sentence order – for all intents and purposes the conditional sentence was satisfied, including the period of incarceration, so it had been served and all conditions and requirements had been met when he was released on June 24, 2011.

My request to speak with an official in corrections was not addressed.

(To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be. For the largest department in Manitoba Justice, you strangely seldom hear a scurrying word about their operations.)

Justice Minister Andrew Swan wouldn’t comment when asked about Lamb’s early release, citing the start of the criminal prosecution and ongoing police investigation.

I’d ask you to note how this issue really has nothing, except very tangentially, to do with the murder or sexual assault allegations Lamb now faces.

It does, however, have everything to do with where the buck stops in Manitoba’s justice system.

The only way I can see to put it is like this: A judge’s order regarding how best to sentence Lamb was either disobeyed, ignored or countermanded by corrections officials. 

I don’t know who allows the department to do this.

The public expects that a judge’s decision is final and should be obeyed.

If a Manitoba Justice department doesn’t seem to take judges’ rulings on sentences seriously, why should criminals? Why should you or I?

I expect that a judge’s decision be respected and followed as it was directed.

In this serious case, it wasn’t. We don’t know if Lamb took the mandatory rehab and psychological programming. Did he complete the 100 hours of community service? We don’t know.

We’re not really allowed to know and it’s ridiculous.

And I think we all deserve answers what happened here.

-30-

Why was Shawn Lamb out of jail?

 

(Carolyn Sinclair)

Looking at the math, either I’m missing something about the recent release date of accused serial killer Shawn Lamb, or we need to seriously re-examine the early-release provisions regarding career criminals.

Today, Lamb is facing three second-degree murder charges in connection to the deaths of:

Tanya Nepinak (on Sept. 13, 2011)

Carolyn Sinclair (Dec. 18, 2011)

Lorna Blacksmith (Jan. 11, 2012)

On May 26, 2010, Lamb was sentenced by Judge Linda Giesbrecht (now retired) to the following after admitting guilt to 16 charges, including two violent robberies of innocent people.

27 months at double credit (his charges pre-dated the legislative amendment forbidding granting this to him) for time served on the robberies.

PLUS 19 months going forward of real jail for possession of property obtained by crime and forgery and theft, fraud and utter forged documents.

ONLY after this period of jail was served would the many months remaining on a Conditional Sentence he was given in Jan. 2009 for attempted robbery then begin to resume (to be followed by three years of supervised probation — court heard the sentence handed down in May 2010 would ultimately mean he’d be supervised in various forms for six years).

The Crown attorney was very specific in how she wanted the sentence structured.

If he was sentenced to 19 months real jail, that takes us to December 2011 before that in-custody period expired.

Looking at the offence dates police say the women were killed, that raises an issue. It would appear, on the surface, that Lamb was released many months prior to when he was supposed to be from a provincial jail.

I can accept in some cases early-release provisions apply for both federal and provincial inmates.

But in Lamb’s case, I can’t. This is an accused person with more than 100 prior convictions, many of them for violent acts and court order breaches — along with parole and statutory release violations.

How it was determined that he be granted early release — given his prior history — needs to be examined in detail.