A Medicine Hat woman convicted of murder stood before a judge in Lethbridge Tuesday afternoon to find out how much time she’ll spend in prison before being eligible for parole.
In September, Melissa Martens-Lagasse pleaded guilty to second degree murder for strangling her travelling companion Megan Eekma.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Martens-Lagasse and Eekma were travelling to Medicine Hat from B.C. when they ran out of gas in Fort Macleod, Alta. on Nov. 18, 2021.
While waiting for Martens-Lagasse’s mother to arrive from Medicine Hat to help, Eekma fell asleep. It was then Martens-Lagasse strangled her with a rope then dumped her body on the side of a road near the town of Pincher Creek, Alta.
Martens-Lagasse initially pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder last April, before pleading guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory minimum of a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 10 years.
During sentencing arguments (to determine parole eligibility) on Tuesday, Crown and defense lawyers discussed Gladue factors that provide context for the historic traumas inflicted on Indigenous people, leading them into conflict with the law.
The crown requested parole be withheld for fourteen years, citing the violent nature of the offense.
The defense didn’t counter with a specific number, only requesting something less than 14 years.
In the end, Justice Vaughan Hartigan sided with the Crown, sentencing Martens-Lagasse to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 14 years.
The judge explained the murder and its circumstances vastly outweigh the Gladue circumstances of the offender. He also pointed to the method of strangulation and that Martens-Lagasse could have stopped before Eekma’s death.
Family and friends of Eekma were in attendance in the courtroom wearing shirts with her picture on them. Emotion flooded over them as the decision was delivered.
Martens-Lagasse will be eligible for parole in 2037.