Alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb plead guilty, retracted the pleas, then pleaded guilty all over again to killing two women during an emotional hearing in a Winnipeg courtroom on Thursday.
Lamb, 54, was charged in June 2012 with three counts of second-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Carolyn Sinclair, 25, Lorna Blacksmith, 18, and Tanya Jane Nepinak, 31.
On Thursday morning, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the cases of Sinclair and Blacksmith. He has denied killing Nepinak.
Moments after hearing submissions for the joint sentence from Crown prosecutor Sheila Leinburd and Lamb’s defence lawyer Martin Glazer, the court erupted in gasps and tears when Lamb stood and rescinded his plea.
As Lamb told the court he wanted a trial instead, a man yelled from the gallery, calling Lamb a monster and telling him to take responsibility.
The man, who was sitting with Blacksmith's mother, was escorted out by a sheriff. Shortly after that, a woman left the room in tears.
Lamb then began addressing the court, giving details about the killings and saying he's been a drug addict since age 12 and people wouldn't understand what he's been through.
As he spoke, some members of the victims' families got up and left the room.
Lamb said he was sorry, has remorse and empathy — and understands the feelings of victim's families. He also said he hated what he has become.
"Basically, I turn into a monster at times. That is not me," he said.
After a brief discussion with his lawyer, Lamb re-entered his guilty plea and spoke more about his childhood — being taken from his mother and put into foster care — before wrapping up.
The judge then adjourned court until 2:45 p.m. CT for a possible decision on the joint submission. If a decision is not made by then, it will happen within a week, the judge said.
20-year sentence recommended
Lamb's plea was part of a deal to have the original charges reduced from second-degree murder.
The deal calls for two consecutive 10-year sentences for a total of 20 years in jail.
Sinclair's body was found in March 2012 near a dumpster behind an apartment complex in the 700 block of Notre Dame Avenue, between Toronto and Victor streets, in Winnipeg's West End.
Court heard Thursday during submissions from the Crown that Lamb and Sinclair had been smoking crack cocaine in Lamb's bathroom, when Lamb hit her in the head with an axe handle three or four times.
When he realized she was still alive, Lamb then choked her with his hands.
Lamb then smoked the rest of the crack and left Sinclair's body in the bathroom for several days before placing her in a bag and dumping her, court was told.
Blacksmith's body was found in the backyard of a home in the 700 block of Simcoe Street, also in the city's West End, in June 2012.
Court was told Thursday Blacksmith was strangled with a TV cord. Lamb then went to buy drugs and dumped her body later that day.
Nepinak's body has never been found but police have declared her as a homicide victim.
Police have said they believe Nepinak's body was placed in a garbage bin in the city's West End and that the bin was emptied in the Brady Road landfill. But a week-long search of the area in October 2012 turned up no evidence.
Her death remains an open case.
Lack of evidence
The Crown prosecutor told court the investigation was challenging because there were no witnesses and little forensic evidence, which is why the charges were reduced to manslaughter.
The Crown said public safety was the primary concern in making the deal with Lamb.
In his submission, Glazer said the judge should consider that his client confessed in June 2012 while in custody on an unrelated matter.
Lamb then helped police fill in the blanks about those homicides, Glazer said, also noting police had no idea Lamb was involved until he came forward.
“How many people in his shoes would do that" especially given the lack of evidence and unlikelihood of a conviction, Glazer said.
He said the joint recommendation submitted to the judge is fit, reasonable and good for public safety, adding Lamb won't apply for parole for nine years.
The judge should also consider that Lamb's guilty plea has spared the victims' families from having to endure a trial, Glazer said.
He then read letters written to the victims' families by Lamb, who called Blacksmith a beautiful spirit and said he was "truly sorry."
Part of the joint recommendation was for Lamb to serve his sentence outside the Prairie provinces for his own safety, Glazer said, adding his client feels he will be a target by other prisoners because his high-profile case.
Sinclair family outraged
Amanda Sinclair, Carolyn Sinclair's sister, said outside court Thursday morning Lamb's plea deal was unfair.
"My sister [Carolyn] is never going to return. Lorna is never going to return," she said. "These girls are not going to come home for Christmas. They're not going to come home for Mother's Day. They're not going to come home for any kind of holidays.
"But you know," she said, her voice breaking, "he gets his three meals a day, you know, for how many years? And they're asking for less?
Sinclair said there will be no justice for her sister.
"In nine years, he's eligible for parole. In nine years, do I get to see my sister? Does she get to come back to me? That's not fair at all, but you know, that's our justice system. Where's the justice in this? There's no justice system for my family. I'm never going to get her back."
Lamb, who is originally from Ontario, has an extensive criminal record extending across four provinces.
Since 1979, he has had 109 convictions in Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba. In the latter, Lamb has 45 convictions since 2002 for everything from robbery to forgery, fraud, and uttering threats.
Most recently he was charged with sexual assault in May 2012 and June 2012.
It was when Lamb was picked up on June 21, that police learned of his alleged connection to the three homicides.