CORNER BROOK — The young girl attacked by Jonathan Kelly on the Corner Brook Stream Trail last July says she “can only hope” the right people in her life understand how the incident has changed her.
Her lengthy, gut-wrenching victim impact statement was among the things Judge Wayne Gorman had to consider before deciding to sentence Kelly to three years in prison for the brazen daylight attack on the popular walking trail last July 24.
According to an agreed statement of facts submitted to the court, the 16-year-old girl was walking towards Margaret Bowater Park when she encountered Kelly walking toward her. She moved to the side so they could pass one another.
After Kelly passed her, he grabbed the girl from behind and around her throat. He dragged her off the trail and into the woods.
She screamed for help and he told her to shut up.
He continued to drag her as she told him to take her backpack and her iPod.
Kelly suddenly released her and she managed to crawl back to the trail where four bystanders came to her aid. One of them called 911, but a police search of the area did not locate the attacker.
It would not be until Nov. 14 that DNA evidence collected from the scene connected Kelly to the attack and he was arrested. Samples of DNA were also collected from a garbage bag of clothes a witness told police that Kelly had discarded the day of the attack.
In her victim impact statement, the girl described the impact the attack had on her during those nearly four months before an arrest was made and how the incident continues to have a prolonged effect.
She told the court in her written words that she used to be “charismatic” and “always so happy,” but “I just wasn’t like that anymore.” The day her mother told her she was “a completely different person” was the day she cried the hardest.
“She said I had lost my spark, my light, my energy,” the girl wrote of her mother’s observations.
The incident’s impact on the girl’s performance at school was so profound that it has even changed the way she thinks about her post-secondary education plans.
“I’ve never felt so bad about myself, so bad in my entire life because I was always smart and strong and he took both (of) that away from me,” she wrote. “I have given up on my big dreams for university. I’m not bothering to go for scholarships, I’m now only going to MUN and, not that MUN isn’t a great school, I’m just 100 per cent sure that I could have went anywhere I wanted, but now I won’t even be accepted. That’s what honestly makes me the most sad.”
The teen said she seems to be getting past what happened, but it has been far from easy.
“I just hope that, even though I could express just how my life has changed, the right people understand that it has,” she wrote. “I guess I can only hope.”
The three years in prison is at the high end of the range of sentencing asked for by Crown attorney Trina Simms. Defence lawyer Peter Chaffey had asked for between 15 and 17 months in prison followed by probation.
Kelly, who has 10 prior convictions, said the motivation for his actions that day was to steal items from the girl so he could sell them in order to support his addiction to morphine and Dilaudid.
His criminal record includes convictions for uttering threats, theft, fraud and breaches of court orders.
Gorman went with the higher end of sentencing because it was a violent offence in a public area, committed by a person bound by a probation order. The offence also caused significant harm to the victim and was alarming to the population in general, added the judge.
Gorman said it “must have been a terrifying experience” for the girl and that it has had “a significant and ongoing impact” on the teenage victim.
“I conclude that, considering the nature of the offences committed by Mr. Kelly, that a period of 36 months imprisonment is not unduly long or harsh, in the sense that it is not disproportionate to the gravity of the offences and his degree of responsibility,” Gorman said in his written decision filed at provincial court Wednesday afternoon.
The sentence is broken down into 30 months for the robbery and four months for the accompanying probation breach. Kelly was also given one month each for charges of stealing sneakers from Wal-Mart last April, and another breach of probation related to that.
Because he has been given a federal prison term, Kelly will not get any probation. He was also given 78 days credit for time served since his arrest Nov. 14.
He was also ordered to provide a sample of his DNA to authorities and will be subject to a weapons prohibition for 10 years after his release from prison.