Christine Denham’s daughter broke down in tears reading her victim impact statement in B.C. Supreme Court in Abbotsford Thursday (Feb. 9) morning at the sentencing hearing for Shane Travis Hughes who shot and killed Denham in 2019.
Hughes pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September 2022 in the case that his lawyer Rob Dhanu positioned as one being closer to an accidental killing than to murder.
Dhanu is seeking a jail sentence of three to four years, while Crown counsel Bethany Oros is asking for six years.
“I still think of the promises she made when I was younger,” Denham’s daughter told the court, adding that she admitted to sometimes being jealous of her friends who have mothers.
“People don’t really know what they have until they lose it.”
Denham’s former husband Patrick Morrison and the couple’s oldest son also read victim impact statements.
“She was a good mom,” Morrison said. “She did the best she could. Though we were not together anymore, Christine and I, up until the last minute I wished I could have helped.”
Denham and Hughes were living together in a house on Victor Street in Chilliwack in a tumultuous, drug-filled lifestyle. On Feb. 26, 2019, Hughes shot Denham with a shotgun in their home at approximately 1 p.m.
The two were living in a house in “complete disarray” filled with drug paraphernalia, according to an agreed statement of facts.
During a minor dispute, Hughes picked up a black Remington pump-action shotgun that was laying on the floor in the foyer of the house.
He entered the living room with the gun, Denham tried to take it away from him, and she was shot in the abdomen. Hughes then fled the residence, gave the gun to a friend who was waiting with a car. He went back in, dialed 911 and gave the phone to Denham before leaving.
During the 911 call, Denham told the dispatcher that she wanted help and she had been shot by a shotgun.
“The injury hurt and there was lots of blood. She was going to die. The shooter was no longer there,” according to the agreed statement of facts.
Not long after surgery at hospital her brain activity ceased, and she was declared brain dead at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2019, and taken off life support.
Hughes spent approximately two years on house arrest under strict conditions. After he pleaded guilty, his conditions eased allowing him to leave the house where he was living in Sorrento from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hughes is being given credit for 28 months time served, but because of the strict release conditions, he is also asking for credit for the time he spent under house arrest. Crown opposes this.
After Crown’s sentencing submissions, which included the victim impact statements, Dhanu said reading the statements a day earlier was very emotional for Hughes.
“Denham was his partner,” Dhanu said. “It was an imperfect pairing, but they tried to build a life together,” he said, adding they were living with the scourge of addiction, haunted by their past.
“That addiction is the shadow under which this case looms.”
Dhanu began by saying Hughes would address the court directly, and that he knows he may not be forgiven.
“Mr. Hughes understands that in terms of his remorse, it may not be accepted, but he does offer it.”
Denham’s name was included in a domestic violence project in October 2019 called the Silent Witness Exhibit. Her mother attended the ceremony at the Chilliwack RCMP detachment to honour those who have been killed by domestic violence incidents.
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