TORONTO - The families of both a murdered 14-year-old girl and the 17-year-old who waged an "unrelenting campaign" to have her killed silently wept as the teen girl was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.
Previously identified only as M.T. because she was just shy of her 16th birthday at the time of the murder, her adult sentence for first-degree murder means Melissa Todorovic can now be named.
Stefanie Rengel was lured from her home on New Year's Day 2008 by Todorovic's then 17-year-old boyfriend, known only as D.B., who has pleaded guilty to stabbing Rengel six times and leaving her to die in a snowbank.
Todorovic viewed Rengel, who had been in a brief and non-sexual relationship with D.B. when she was 12, as her romantic rival and over the course of Todorovic and D.B.'s "stormy" relationship, Rengel grew for Todorovic "from an irritation to an obsession," Justice Ian Nordheimer said in his decision.
Todorovic "engaged in an unrelenting campaign over many months to cause the death of a 14-year-old girl that she had never met," he said.
She placed "relentless pressure" on D.B. through instant messages, text messages and Facebook messages threatening to withhold sex from him if he didn't kill Rengel.
Defence lawyer Marshall Sack had maintained that Todorovic was less culpable than D.B. because he was the one who actually stabbed Rengel, but Nordheimer disagreed.
"Put simply, the puppet master is not less blameworthy than the puppet," he told the court.
"Indeed, I would suggest that the master is more culpable since he or she puts the wheels in motion and then stands back under a facade of disassociation while the scheme they have created unfolds."
In handing down the adult sentence, Nordheimer also set Todorovic's parole eligibility at the maximum of seven years.
Members of both families cried after the sentence was read, while after hearing the words "adult sentence" a small smile crept across the face of Rengel's 13-year-old brother Ian.
Outside court he faced a throng of cameras to read a statement on behalf of his family.
"We are relieved at the adult sentence and we appreciate the difficult decision that Judge Nordheimer faced," said the boy, with his parents Patricia Hung and Adolfo Rengel close behind him.
"(She) is a disturbed individual who needs all the help that our system has to offer," Ian Rengel said of Todorovic.
"We pray that she benefits from the services now available to her and can grow to heal and become a balanced and rational member of society."
Pre-sentencing psychiatric reports on Todorovic brought up many factors that suggest "frightening" character flaws, Nordheimer said. But they also noted that people's personalities are not fully developed until they are in their 20s, which is when Todorovic could be free either under a youth sentence or an adult sentence, the judge said.
But she would be completely free and unmonitored after serving a youth sentence of six years in custody and four under community supervision, whereas even if she is paroled after seven years in prison the National Parole Board could asses her reintegration into society, Nordheimer said.
"Someone must be charged with the task of at least making an effort to follow Melissa's progress so that if a risk should again present itself there may be some hope of interrupting its path," he said.
D.B. earlier pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and his sentencing hearing begins in September.