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‘She is no more’: Judge sentences man to 14 years in caseworker’s stabbing death

Brandon Newman is considered to be ‘a high risk for violence and recidivism’
Deborah Onwu is seen in an undated family handout photo. Brandon Newman, accused of killing Onwu in October 2019, was sentenced today after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Nancy Uwangue says she wakes up screaming each morning when she remembers the loss of her sister who was stabbed to death outside a Calgary group home just over two years ago.

She submitted a victim impact statement Monday at the sentencing of Brandon Newman, who pleaded guilty in September to second-degree murder in the death of Deborah Onwu on Oct. 25, 2019.

During the sentencing hearing, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Jim Eamon accepted a joint submission from the Crown and the defence lawyer that Newman not be eligible for parole for 14 years.

“Debbie was compassionate, caring, forgiving and passionate about helping others. She’s always wanted to make changes in children’s services. She has a long list of people she wants to help. That will never be achieved because she is no more,” Uwangue said in the statement read in court.

“From that day, every morning when I wake up, I must remind myself that Debbie’s attacker won’t be able to hurt her anymore.”

Uwangue said life lost its meaning since the day she received the call that her sister had died. She said she wants answers.

“No day is past when I don’t wonder why. What instigated this stabbing? Why take my sister away? What was her crime to be stabbed multiple times?”

Moses Onwu said he collapsed when he heard his daughter was gone and added that no parent should ever have to bury a child.

“The news of your death is unbearable, heartbreaking and very painful. I’ve not recovered and don’t think I will,” he said.

“Our family is broken. You were the glue that held us together. We miss you a great deal. Daddy misses you so much.”

Newman was described by psychiatrists as being developmentally and cognitively challenged and is considered to be “a high risk for violence and recidivism.”

Court heard he grew up on a First Nation in northern Alberta and suffered from drug and alcohol abuse from an early age and had constant thoughts of suicide.

He did apologize to the family.

“I can understand if they never forgive me for what I did but I know, deep down inside me, I’ll never forgive myself,” he said from the prisoner’s box.

“I’ll never, ever forgive myself. I hated myself so much even when I was a little kid, but now I hate myself even more.”

Prosecutor Carla MacPhail said the sentence is severe enough that it will send a message to the general public.

“This was an attack on a vulnerable woman, alone at night,” she said. “This was a brutal attack with hallmarks of overkill and gratuitous infliction of pain and suffering.”

Court heard that in 2018 Newman had recently moved into temporary housing at Wood’s Homes, a mental health centre that provides treatment and support for children and adults.

He stabbed Onwu 19 times after she confronted him about missing his curfew.

Eamon said the recommended sentence was appropriate and balances both Newman’s background and the fact that the attack “was brutal and it was senseless.”

“I know that sometimes members of the public or members of the family would prefer to see upwards of the maximum,” he said.

“I don’t mean to be taken as belittling the family’s grief or the horrible loss of Ms. Onwu and what she must have suffered on that night. I have to consider Mr. Newman’s impaired functioning.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2021

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press