A Surrey woman who cruelly set another young woman on fire over a trivial argument involving a bicycle should serve 10 to 12 years in prison, Crown prosecutors say.
Mehgan Pronick, 26, suffers from devastating disfigurement following the Dec. 17, 2011 attack by Danielle R. Merasty, 21.
Merasty has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
"She has done something monstrous," Crown prosecutor Keith Boland said Friday, during Merasty's sentencing hearing before Judge Robin Baird in Surrey provincial court.
Defence lawyer Jordan Allingham argued for a five-year sentence, less the 299 days Merasty has already spent in custody, saying that's "severe" enough for a youthful and "extremely remorseful" aboriginal with no prior criminal record who was in the depths of methamphetamine addiction at the time.
"Here sitting before you is a remorseful young woman," Allingham told the judge. Baird has reserved his decision to a later date.
Pronick suffered deep burns to 67 per cent of her body, from head to foot. During an interview with police from her hospital bed in the burn unit of Vancouver General Hospital, Pronick recalled the attack, which happened in a shed near 133rd Street and 103rd Avenue in Whalley.
She said she was visiting a couple of friends where Merasty confronted her concerning the whereabouts of a bicycle. Pronick said she thought Merasty had stolen the bike so she returned it to its "rightful owner" the previous day. It turned out Merasty hadn't stolen it but borrowed it, she told the officers. "I was wrong."
Merasty demanded to know where the bike was and Pronick told her she'd returned it.
"She said if I didn't return the bicycle she was going to light me on fire," Pronick said. "I didn't think she'd do it."
Merasty, with blonde braids in black hair, sat in the prisoner box, head down, as the court heard Pronick's account. Pronick told the police Merasty had a cup of liquid in her hand, which apparently contained a liquid lacquer thinner and some kind of powdered soap.
"I just kept saying 'You're not going to light me on fire.' We argued for a while. She eventually did."
A bystander threw a blanket on Pronick, but that didn't work and she burst into flames again. Hosing her down with water didn't work, either. Eventually the flames were put out with a fire extinguisher.
Crown prosecutor Don Wilson noted her injuries are "catastrophic."
"If she cries it feels like something is burning in her body," he said.
Pronick's face and head is severely disfigured, her right hand is mostly gone and she has three fingers on her left hand. The burns to her face were so deep, Wilson said, that the doctors at VGH had never seen anything like it.
She's had 13 reconstructive surgeries so far, with many more to come. She also has an acrylic mask for her face, but she didn't wear it to court Friday.
At one point Wilson invited Merasty to look at what she'd done. She didn't, but started crying and rubbed her eyes.
Wilson told Baird it was "probably the most serious aggravated assault" he'd seen in his lengthy career.
Had Pronick died, he said, Merasty would likely have been charged with first-degree murder.
The court heard victim impact statements from Pronick and her family.
"Look at me," Pronick wrote.
She questions if people will ever be able to see the real her behind her "hideous" scars.
"I have lost my future and all the hopes and dreams I had," said Pronick, mother of a three-year-old girl.
"What made you want to do this to me over something so trivial?" she asked of her attacker. "I feel I will never have closure."
Wilson said a psychiatrist found Merasty to be a self-centred, narcissistic, rebellious and impulsive meth user who tends to blame others for her problems and poses a high risk to re-offend.
The maximum sentence for aggravated assault is 14 years. Outside court, Pronick's mother Laurie said she wants a stiffer sentence for Merasty than what the Crown had asked for.
"We want 14," she said. "It's not enough."