A woman who killed and dismembered her boyfriend in their Nanaimo apartment suffered the symptoms of a battered spouse, her lawyer told her trial in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.
Paris Laroche, 28, is being tried in a Vancouver court for first-degree murder and interference with human remains in the March 2020 killing of Sidney Mantee, 32.
The trial has heard how Laroche hit Mantee in the head with a hammer while he was sleeping and kept his body in the apartment and over six months cut up and disposed of parts in popular city parks.
Crown lawyer Nick Barber wrapped up his case last week after introducing his evidence against Laroche, which included audio and videotapes of her admitting to the killing to two undercover officers who pretended to help her dispose of evidence.
Crown witnesses included Laroche’s best friend, Robyn Bartle, who went to police in 2021 after Laroche confessed the crime to her, changing Mantee’s disappearance from a missing person’s case to a murder investigation.
Defence lawyer Glen Orris in his opening remarks on Monday told court he will show how the abuse Laroche suffered at the hands of Mantee may have contributed to her actions when she killed him.
He referred to Section 34 of the Criminal Code, which states in part that a person isn’t guilty of an offence if “they believe on reasonable grounds that force” or a threat of force is being used against them or another person.
In her statements to police and to the undercover officers, Laroche had said she had suffered abuse, and, “It’s either him or me,” Orris told the court.
And she told police that Mantee had threatened to kill her family and friends, he said.
Laroche also said Mantee had told her he had killed someone and was involved with gangs and although police said he didn’t have a criminal record, Laroche believed that he did, said Orris.
He said the evidence will allow the court to properly assess Laroche’s state of mind at the time of the killing and whether her actions were reasonable under the circumstances for someone suffering from battered spouse characteristics.
Orris’s first witness, Amy Fitzgerald, a University of Windsor sociologist who has written papers on the co-occurrence of animal abuse in intimate partner violence, testified she hadn’t interviewed Laroche and was basing her comments on transcripts of the undercover operations and the police interview, both played earlier in court.
Fitzgerald noted that it was clear Laroche was attached to her cats, saying she asked after their welfare with police and with Bartle after her arrest.
Fitzgerald has written about how people engaged in intimate partner violence will use pets to further abuse the victim, court heard.
For instance, in an analysis of Statistics Canada data, she determined that in households where pets are threatened or harmed, the victims have a 25 per cent increased probability of fearing for their life from the abuser.
Laroche had told police in audio heard earlier in the trial that Mantee hurting her cat had been the last straw for her before the killing.
Fitzgerald gave testimony and was cross-examined on Monday, but the Crown lawyer will later argue for the judge to rule her evidence inadmissible based on questions he has on her qualifications as an expert witness. Court was adjourned early on Monday so Crown could review more evidence from Fitzgerald.
A precedent was established in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990 for using the mental condition called battered spouse syndrome as a defence in murder. In the case of R. v Lavallee, Angelique Lyn Lavallee was ultimately acquitted of murder after she killed her partner who had terrorized with a pattern of abuse.