A woman who stabbed her spouse to death with a knife was spared jail Wednesday after a B.C. Supreme Court justice said she is better off remaining in a Surrey-based recovery house.
Outside the courtroom, a young female relative of log-home builder Tracy (Two Feathers) Charters screamed at Janice Nielsen, who pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter on the eve of her second-degree murder trial.
"Filthy bitch — you get no jail time. Someone gets killed and there's no jail," she wailed, while onlookers stood by.
Instead, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ronald McKinnon gave Nielsen a suspended sentence of 18 months. Terms of the order include staying at the recovery house, abstaining from drugs and alcohol and continued counselling.
Nielsen stabbed Charters to death in May 2010. The couple had a history of drunken and sometimes violent disputes. They were well known to RCMP. She spent 87 days in custody following the incident.
The court heard during sentencing arguments that Nielsen accused Charters of cheating on her with another woman. She swore and cut up his clothes with a knife while he was in the house. He walked past her on his way to the kitchen.
When they were both inside, Charters grabbed her by the hair and punched her in the head. McKinnon said Nielsen was extremely intoxicated to the point where she could not be read her rights by RCMP who were called soon after.
"She probably intended to place (the knife) back in the drawer," McKinnon said in his ruling. "She wasn't looking to confront Tracy."
After she was grabbed and punched, Nielsen stabbed her common-law husband in the chest and head, killing him.
McKinnon said aside from "one or two stumbles," Nielsen has made great strides toward recovery at the Vision Quest recovery house in Surrey. She has been sober for 29 months and recently led one of her two daughters to the same status.
Nielsen has fetal-alcohol syndrome disorder. She is a lifelong alcoholic who has become involved in a number of abusive relationships. Her daughters followed the same pattern, McKinnon said.
The 41-year-old Nicola Valley woman, from the Coldwater Indian Band, has less than six months work experience.
Crown prosecutors asked for a two- to three-year jail sentence.