Court hears Winnipeg mother’s murder left family devastated, living in fear

A Winnipeg courtroom heard Thursday how the fatal beating and stabbing of a Winnipeg mother in 2022 has left her family broken and one of her children living in fear for their life.

About a dozen family members and friends of Tessa Perry gathered for her confessed killer’s sentencing hearing.

Perry’s on-and-off-again boyfriend, Justin Robinson, pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder in her death, which carries an automatic life sentence.

On Thursday, the Crown asked Justice Shawn Greenberg for Robinson to be ineligible for parole for 16 years. His defence recommended 14 years.

Outside court, Perry’s mother, Angelina Perry, said neither would bring her daughter justice. She had experienced intimate partner violence before and needed protection, Angelina said.

“The justice system has failed us, and I’m sure it has failed a lot of others,” she said.

A woman with sunglasses is interviewed.
Tessa Perry’s mother, Angelina Perry, says her daughter was beautiful and full of life. She said she hasn’t been able to return to work since Perry was killed in 2022. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Earlier in court, Angelina was composed and firm as she read her victim impact statement.

Robinson looked down at the floor in the prisoner’s box as court heard how Perry’s death has devastated her family.

Angelina detailed how she has lost her spirit and hasn’t been able to return to work as a probation officer, or sleep well since her daughter’s death.

She said she misses her daughter, who was full of life.

“Beautiful, happy, humorous, straightforward,” Angelina said outside court.

She was surrounded by family, including Perry’s aunt, Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, a longtime advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“What this ultimately boils down to is the justice system failed Tessa, and you know, as a result of it, she was murdered,” Anderson-Pyrz said, pointing to Robinson’s history of violence.

He had assaulted Perry before and was on probation for assault at the time of the murder, court heard Thursday.

Perry was beaten and stabbed to death on May 28, 2022. She had gotten back from grocery shopping when Robinson began assaulting her in front of two of her kids, including one they share together.

In March, court heard how Robinson hit Perry multiple times before taking the children to an upstairs bedroom. He came back and hit Perry several times with a frying pan then stabbed her with a paring knife multiple times. When Perry attempted to leave the home, Robinson followed her outside and struck her face and head 15 to 20 times with a wooden table leg that had a screw sticking out of it.

Child witness afraid for life

In court Thursday, Crown attorney Zita De Sousa read statements from Perry’s children.

Perry’s 14-year-old called her their best friend and the most caring and funny woman.

Perry’s seven-year-old, who was five when they witnessed part of the attack, said they were sad every day and every birthday.

“I miss Momma Tessa and when she tells me I’m beautiful,” the child wrote, with the help of a mental health worker. “I wish we could snuggle, hug and kiss.”

“I’m scared that my dad will find out where I am. I’m scared he will hurt me, and I don’t want to pass away like Momma Tessa.” 

The Crown, calling the attack brutal and “vicious,” said multiple factors, including that the case involved intimate partner violence and that Perry was Indigenous, influenced their decision to push for a 16-year parole ineligibility.

“This incident and this hearing represent another Indigenous daughter, sister and mother who’s erased from the families,” De Sousa told court.

However, she said Robinson’s guilty plea played in his favour.

Apology doesn’t mean anything: Perry’s mother

Robinson’s defence lawyer Mike Cook said his client had a “chaotic” and unstable childhood and was sexually abused in his teens. Robinson later struggled with addictions and takes full responsibility for Tessa’s death, Cook told court. 

Robinson apologized to Perry’s children and her family, saying, “I will regret my actions for as long as I live.”

Outside court, Angelina said Robinson’s apology didn’t mean anything to her.

“I know my daughter … she accepted all apologies, but we’ve tried to stick by his side back in the day and for him to get help, and it hasn’t worked.”

After nearly two years of feeling angry and tortured by her daughter’s death, Angelina said she’s taking it one step at a time.

She said her daughter believed in her and would want her to be strong for her other children, grandchildren and the community.

“Hopefully be able to help others that go through things like this,” Angelina said.

Greenberg is reserving her decision until June 13.