A Surrey woman who pleaded guilty to cruelly burning 67 per cent of another woman's body over a trivial argument involving a bicycle has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Surrey provincial court Judge Robin Baird said he had to consider Danielle Merasty's aboriginal status as a lessening factor in determining her moral responsibility for what he called a "grotesque" and "mind-boggling" crime that's "nigh on impossible to believe.
"This case quite literally beggars belief," Baird said. "This attack was profoundly cruel, inhumane and vicious."
With time already served, Merasty's prison term works out to eight years and 11 weeks.
The victim, Mehgan Pronick, didn't comment on the sentence but it was clear she and members of her family weren't satisfied that justice had been done.
"It's not enough," said Pronick's mom, Laura. She wanted the maximum 14 years for aggravated assault. The Crown had argued for a prison sentence of 10 to 12 years for the "monstrous" assault while the defence argued for a five-year prison term.
Pronick was 25 when she suffered devastating disfigurement after Merasty, 21, doused her with an accelerant and set her on fire, on Dec. 17, 2011, during a petty squabble over a bicycle. The court heard both women had been "street friends," addicted to crystal meth, when Pronick confiscated Merasty's bike, thinking she'd stolen it. Merasty, in a planned attack, retaliated by chucking a Big Gulp sized cup of liquid lacquer thinner and some kind of powdered soap at Pronick and then set her on fire in a shed near 133rd Street and 103rd Avenue in Whalley. The court heard Pronick begged bystanders to kill her to put her out of her misery while Merasty walked away.
After Merasty was arrested "her behavior made light of the incident," Baird said he was told.
Pronick's face and head is severely disfigured, her right hand is mostly gone and she has three fingers left on her left hand. She's had 13 reconstructive surgeries so far, with more to come. The court heard her young daughter has a hard time approaching her.
Baird said the fact she didn't die of her "dreadful" and "catastrophic" injuries "is in itself remarkable.
"I think your courage is astonishing," Baird told Pronick, who was sitting with her family in the public gallery.
A psychiatrist found Merasty presents a "moderate risk" to commit future violent crimes. Her lawyer, Jordan Allingham, said she's "clearly remorseful" and was "deep in her addiction" when she attacked Pronick. "It was me being way too doped up," he said Merasty told the shrink.
Allingham said that despite his client's "very difficult upbringing" Merasty is "extremely resilient" and "is not a lost cause."
Baird remarked that Merasty's background of poverty, drugs and violence is "way too common in this country" and "woefully familiar" to anyone working on the front lines of the justice system.
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