‘My heart constantly aches…I yearn for her,’ Loretta Saunders’ mom tells court

Warning: This story contains graphic details.

Trina Roache
APTN National News
HALIFAX – The mother of Loretta Saunders doesn’t believe her daughter’s killers are remorseful and isn’t sure if she’ll ever forgive them.

Wednesday morning, a grieving Miriam Saunders took the stand in a Halifax courtroom to read her victim impact statement.

“My heart constantly aches,” said Miriam Saunders. “I yearn for her. From that day on, nothing has been the same.”

Loretta Saunders, 26, was killed in her Halifax apartment in February 2014. Last week, the killers pleaded guilty before the trial got underway. Blake Leggette will serve a life sentence for first-degree murder. Victoria Henneberry faces the same sentence for second-degree murder.

The Crown and Henneberry’s lawyer, Pat Atherton, made a joint recommendation that she be eligible for parole after 10 years. At that news, a distraught Miriam Saunders left the courtroom. When she came back in to have her say in court, she asked the judge to reconsider that in his sentencing.

“My girl is gone,” said Saunders. “She’s not gone for 10 or 25 years, she’s gone forever…I’ll never find it in my heart to forgive.”

Delilah Saunders, Loretta’s sister, lashed out angrily at Henneberry in court, screaming, “Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve stolen my sister.”

Leggette and Henneberry sublet an apartment from Saunders but the couple were having a hard time making ends meet. Court documents say that Leggette planned to kill Saunders to save money and then steal her car so he could leave Halifax.

When Loretta went to collect the $400 in rent on February 13, 2014, Leggette asked Henneberry, “Should I do it?”

Henneberry told him, “You don’t have the balls.”

Henneberry kept Saunders in the apartment by making up a lie that she had lost her bank card and needed to call the bank for a new one.

Leggette then choked and strangled Loretta. He tried to put a plastic bag over her head. She fought him and kept tearing at the bags. He banged her head off the floor twice and knocked her unconscious. The cause of death was asphyxiation. Leggette put Saunders’ body in a hockey bag.

He and Henneberry then went out to return a computer so they could get more money. Before coming back to the apartment to gather their things. Leggette toted Saunders body in the hockey bag, down the elevator and through the lobby. He put her in the back of her own car, which they then stole and fled to Ontario, dumping Saunders’ body along the highway in New Brunswick.

Wednesday, the family called the killers, evil, cold and callous to kill someone over such a small amount of money.

Leggette stood up in court and apologized.

“I’m constantly thinking of the pain I caused, I’m sorry I stole Loretta. I do not expect forgiveness but I hope my pleading guilty helps. Loretta was kind to me in the short time I knew her,” he said.

Henneberry also apologized.

“I’m so sorry…sad to know that there was a time in my life I was involved in this death,” said said.

The family reacted angrily in court, someone calling out, “I’ll f—ing kill you a—hole.”

Outside the court, Miriam Saunders said she doesn’t believe they are remorseful.

The victim impact statement painted a vivid picture of Saunders. A young Inuk girl who dropped out of school in Grade 9, struggling with a drug addiction through her teen years. She ended up homeless, living on the streets in Montreal until she finally called her mother for help. Saunders went into treatment and turned her life around. Her family describe her as smart, curious and hardworking.

Saunders was studying criminology at Saint Mary’s University and was two months away from graduating when she was killed. She was working on her thesis on missing and murdered Indigenous women. She had planned to go to law school.

The family is also grieving the loss of a grandchild. Loretta was thre- months pregnant when she died. Miriam Saunders was going to quit her job to help Saunders take care of the baby.

“Loretta had such a short life,” said her aunt Sybilla Engram. “She would have made such a wonderful mother.”

“I’m so proud of all her accomplishments,” said Miriam Saunders, mourning the loss of all the potential her daughter had as a young, vibrant, intelligent woman. A woman who died, said Miriam, over a few hundred dollars.

Leggette and Henneberry are scheduled to sentenced Wednesday afternoon.

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Video Journalist

Trina Roache brings 18 years of journalistic experience to APTN Investigates. A member of the Glooscap First Nation in unceded Mi’kmaw territory, Trina has covered Indigenous issues from politics to land protection, treaty rights and more. In 2014, Trina won the Journalists for Human Rights/CAJ award for her series on Jordan’s Principle. She was nominated again in 2017 for a series on healthcare issues in the remote Labrador community of Black Tickle. Trina’s favorite placed is behind the camera, and is honoured when the people living the story, trust her to tell it.

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