Doug Maki may be eligible for parole in 14 years but the family of slain teen Melani Sutton has vowed to fight to keep him behind bars down the road.
“He’s still in the system and if we have the opportunity in the future to speak [in opposition of his parole], we will,” Sutton’s mother, Fawn Dustin, said in a victim impact statement made prior to Maki’s sentencing here last Thursday.
Maki, 30, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 18-year-old’s death last Tuesday during the second day of his first-degree murder trial, which had been scheduled to run three weeks.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with no eligibility for parole for 14 years, by Senior Regional Justice Terrance Platana.
“Initially, we were not sure which was worse—searching for our daughter and trying to maintain hope day to day, or finally learning she was dead,” Dustin told the court.
“The brutality of this man’s attack, as evidenced by the severity, number, and variety of wounds on her body, are a constant reminder of the possibility she was terrorized at the time of her death.
“We are haunted by this.
“We have been so seriously hurt by Melani’s death, I don’t know if we’ll ever recover,” Dustin continued. “I know I speak for everyone when I say we are bitter, angry, and unforgiving of this crime.
“We can only hope that with time and reflection, we can come to a place of peace,” she noted.
“I am very sorry for the Sutton family” was all Maki had to say when given the opportunity to speak during his sentencing hearing.
“It’s always important to note that setting a date for eligibility for parole does not mean the guilty goes free at that time. The sentence is life imprisonment,” Justice Platana said just before handing down the sentence.
“No sentence by any judge can truly make up for what has happened. I can only hope there is an aspect of closure now,” he added.
The suggestion of setting Maki’s parole eligibility at 14 years was a joint submission of Crown Attorney Robert “Buster” Young and defence lawyer Gil Labine.
Justice Platana noted he is not required to accept joint submissions, but added, “I am entirely satisfied the joint submission put forth is appropriate.”
Under the Criminal Code, second-degree murder carries a life sentence, with eligibility for parole in a minimum of 10 years.
“This case does not represent the minimum amount of time,” said Young. “We suggest 14 years. It reflects the gravity of the circumstances of this egregious and brutal murder.
“I would invite the court to impose this suggestion and bring this unhappy chapter in the life of this community to an end,” he added.
“Melani Sutton is completely blameless in this case,” said Labine. “The blame here lies completely at the shoes of Mr. Maki.”
Labine gave his condolences to Sutton’s family.
“In my role as Mr. Maki’s advocate, I also have to say there is another family victimized by Mr. Maki—his own,” Labine added. “They only learned the circumstances of the crime on Tuesday. And they, too, have lost a child.”
“Hopefully, the community can overcome the divisiveness between the two families and move on,” he remarked, clarifying that despite rumours surrounding the case, there was no previous relationship between Maki and Sutton, and that Sutton was not sexually assaulted the night she died.
Justice Platana thoroughly explained to the packed courtroom his reasoning in agreeing with the suggested sentence.
“In looking at exhibit number one, Mr. Maki is not before the criminal system for the first time,” he began, noting a list of previous charges that included break and enter, fraud, mischief, public mischief, possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking, possession of a restricted weapon, and two counts of mischief endangering life.
“I accept totally the submission of Mr. Young that this is a brutal murder,” Justice Platana continued. “And I would agree with Mr. Labine that the victim could be categorized as completely blameless.
“There was some attempt to cover up what had been done. I consider it an aggravating factor that the body was missing for some two weeks,” he added.
“In addition, I’ve considered Mr. Maki’s actions subsequent to the crime, approaching individuals to cover up for him and form an alibi which wasn’t there.”
After his sentencing for second-degree murder, Maki also was handed another 20 years, to be served concurrently, in connection to a standoff at the Fort Frances Jail last June (see related story).