The man who killed a St. John's woman in 2017 asked for her family's forgiveness Tuesday, as lawyers debated his forthcoming prison sentence.
Steve Bragg, speaking quietly and without emotion, told the provincial Supreme Court that he was sorry for leaving Victoria Head's family without their daughter, mother and sister.
"I'm here to accept responsibility and punishment for my actions," he said, head bowed as he read from a prepared statement.
"I hope others can learn from my mistakes."
Bragg, who has remained incarcerated at Her Majesty's Penitentiary, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May, avoiding what would have been a six-week jury trial.
His guilty plea will likely count toward his sentencing as a mitigating factor. But Crown attorney Lisa Stead pointed out that although Bragg accepted responsibility for the murder, his admission of guilt came late — 2½ years after Head's death.
Bragg also imposed a "brutal and terrifying manner of death" on Head by using a boot lace to strangle her, an act that required ongoing force. He then fled the province to evade police, Stead said.
Despite ample opportunity to seek medical help for Head, Bragg did not do so, she added, noting that he left her body with the ligature still wrapped around her neck.
"He was doing these things with intention," Stead argued.
She asked Justice Donald Burrage to hand down 15 to 17 years without parole, citing the crime's impact on its surviving victims, who submitted statements to Burrage on Tuesday.
Second-degree murder has a mandatory minimum of life in prison, with no chance of parole for anywhere from 10 to 25 years.
Victims share ongoing trauma
Head, a 36-year-old mother from Placentia Bay, left behind a teenage daughter when she was strangled by Bragg on Nov. 11, 2017.
In a victim impact statement, that daughter described the nightmare her life had become in the wake of Head's death.
"This is a sickness now that lives in my stomach, an ache in my heart, and a horror movie that plays on repeat in my head," Jasmine Head wrote, lamenting that she'll never know exactly what happened the night she lost her mother.
"Most days it's a fight to even get out of bed.… Every happy moment in my life has a black cloud hanging over it, because my mom isn't a part of it."
Bragg, feet away from Head's family as a Crown representative read the statement on Jasmine's behalf, stared straight ahead, his face obscured by a medical mask.
Head's father, Pierce Head, also submitted an impact statement Tuesday.
He now takes medication for depression, anxiety and insomnia, he wrote, telling the court he could not forgive Bragg's crime and asking for justice for his daughter, whom he called a "beautiful angel."
Bragg's crime an aberration: defence
Bragg, now 39, stated Tuesday that he planned to pursue addictions programs while serving his sentence, and hoped to emerge from prison as a "positive and productive" member of society.
A pre-sentencing report claims Bragg frequented massage parlours and had developed a cocaine habit in the time leading up to the murder, despite reports from those who knew him describing Bragg as a loyal and caring husband.
His defence lawyer, Bob Buckingham, painted his infidelity and drug use as aberrations in an otherwise well-behaved life, telling Burrage that Bragg had a long-standing record of doing well in school, steadily holding jobs and caring for his family.
Buckingham also described Bragg as a "model inmate" with a high chance of rehabilitation, who expressed remorse and the capacity to address his behavioural problems while serving time. His past conduct, he added, may predict his future habits.
"No one is perfect," Buckingham said. "But he is an individual that has shown a history of being a productive member of society."
Bragg's defence team also argued that a negotiated, joint statement of facts signed by both the Crown and the defence in May didn't contain enough evidence for the bench to sentence Bragg to anything over the mandatory minimum.
They said the statement was missing key facts, such as the location of Head's missing purse and phone, the manner in which she was strangled, and Bragg's motivation for the crime, and asked for a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Burrage plans to hand down his decision on Nov. 4.