Harmony Mason had just turned 18 when a night of drinking turned deadly in Wasagamack First Nation in 2016.
On Tuesday, she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing Brendan Harper, 31, on Oct. 20, 2016. Mason and Orien Harper, 23, were charged after Brendan Harper’s body was found in the water along the shore of Island Lake.
“I just can’t believe I did that,” Mason told the court on Tuesday. “I don’t know what I can do to make it better, if anything. If I could just end my life I would, to try to make them feel better.”
Brendan Harper had been severely beaten about the head and body. His face was left swollen, bruised and bloody, but the official cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation.
Confessed in text, Facebook messages
The night of Harper’s killing, he and Mason had been drinking “super juice” — a type of homemade alcohol — along with a group of people at a house. After police broke up the party, Mason and Orien Harper got into a fight with Brendan.
Mason confessed to standing on Brendan Harper’s throat, possibly while he was unconscious, until he stopped breathing. His body was dragged through the bush to the lake, where it was left until a group of people found it.
The defence and Crown lawyers jointly recommended the minimum sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years, which Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Christopher Martin accepted.
Crown attorney Debbie Buors said the killing has been difficult not only for the families involved, but for the entire community of nearly 2,000 people, 470 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Buors read messages sent by Mason via text and Facebook Messenger immediately after the killing.
“I did something bad.… I killed someone down by the bushes near Tash’s house,” Mason wrote. “I stomped on his face, his throat.”
In an audio recording of a conversation Mason and Orien Harper had with another individual, Buors said the two can be heard laughing while talking about the killing.
Murder ‘out of character’
Mason’s defence counsel, Lori Anderson, said her client’s messages regarding the death “were in some part a way to confess, to show her remorse, even though some of the messages are hard to listen to.
“She was expressing her sorrow over what happened in an immature way.”
Anderson said Mason grew up in a good home after being adopted as a baby. There was no evidence of abuse in her family, and although her biological mother had a problem with drinking, there was no documented evidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
“Before she did this, she was a teenager who liked Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. She went to concerts in Winnipeg that her family paid for and brought her to,” Anderson said.
‘The way you can repair things the most would be to live your life decently as a good person.’ – Justice Christopher Martin
Martin asked Mason if she could offer any explanation for what caused the fight that ended in Harper’s death.
“This appears to be something that, if I just look at it at face value, is completely out of character for you,” he said.
Mason replied that she didn’t know why the fight started.
“I was just drunk, and I get so aggressive when I’m drunk,” she said.
Martin addressed Mason’s thoughts of suicide, telling her that killing herself would not make anything better.
“If anything, I think, your suicide will just add to the tragedy of the circumstances here,” he said.
“If you do well in jail and don’t cause problems, I expect you will be released at some point 10 years down the line. You’ll have an opportunity to make something of your life. And probably the way you can repair things the most would be to live your life decently as a good person and in effect, in that way, honour Mr. Harper.”
Orien Harper pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. His jury trial is set to begin Feb. 25, 2019.
Published at Tue, 13 Mar 2018 18:37:32 -0400