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Edmonton family awaits sentencing decision for man convicted of killing 7-year-old girl

WARNING: This story contains graphic details of violence.

Rows of people wearing shirts with the message “justice for Bella” sat in an Edmonton courtroom Friday as a recording of a young girl’s voice began.

The last victim impact statement from family members of seven-year-old Bella Desrosiers came from her little sister, who was just four when her sibling was stabbed in their bedroom on May 18, 2020.

She was there as Desrosiers was attacked by David Moss, and had to run from the room as the girls’ mother tried to fight him off.

Now eight, the girl said she sometimes pretends her sister is still alive, because it’s too painful to believe she’s gone.

“I often struggle to get to sleep because I shared a bedroom with my sister and we used to talk together until we fell asleep. Now she is not there for me to cuddle with when I wake up from nightmares,” she said.

Moss, 38, was convicted of second-degree murder in Desrosiers’ death. Friday’s hearing is the last step before Court of King’s Bench Justice Steven Mandziuk decides how long Moss will be ineligible for parole during his life sentence.

“I have nightmares about that day and what you did to my sister,” Desrosiers’ sister said.

“She wasn’t just my sister. She was my best friend, and you took that away from me.”

Other family members talked about how they continue to struggle with the senseless loss of a little girl with a vivid imagination, who loved singing, dancing and art.

A woman with brown hair stands outside a home with a driveway, holding a piece of paper with a child's drawing.
Melissa Desrosiers holds picture, drawn by her daughter, of the man convicted of killing her. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Bella’s mother, Melissa Desrosiers, turned to face Moss, sitting in the prisoner’s box with his head in his hands, when she read her statement.

“Bella Rose’s name means beautiful rose — exactly what she was to our family,” she said.

Others in the gallery wept as she described how she’s still haunted by memories of the night Bella was killed.

“I will never go another day forward without feeling some grief for my little girl. I hope that Bella’s death is not in vain.”

Judge finds Moss still capable of intent to commit murder

Melissa Desrosiers was trying to help Moss the night he killed her daughter, having brought him to the house with a plan to drive him to the hospital because she was concerned he was suicidal.

She became friends with Moss after getting a tattoo from him, and she wanted to help him while he was struggling in May 2020 because her husband had died by suicide less than a year earlier.

Moss admitted that he killed Bella Desrosiers, but sought to be found not criminally responsible, arguing he was suffering from a mental disorder and wasn’t aware what he was doing was wrong.

But Mandziuk rejected that, instead accepting expert evidence that Moss’s state of psychosis was due to cannabis use, withdrawal or intoxication.

In Mandziuk’s decision, he said Moss was still aware of what he was doing, and the “delusional belief system” he was under at the time doesn’t negate his intent to commit murder.

Court heard that Moss had previously been prescribed medical cannabis to try to cope with anxiety, but his consumption in 2020 was significantly outside medical guidelines, and as the COVID-19 pandemic took off, he had “exponentially” increased his use.

Moss had stopped using cannabis five days before he killed Desrosiers, but his symptoms of psychosis persisted for a month after his arrest.

A man stands with his eyes closed, wearing a white plastic jumpsuit
David Moss in a photo taken after he was charged in the death of Bella Rose Desrosiers. (Edmonton Police Service/Court exhibit)

He also addressed the court during Friday’s hearing, reading from a piece of paper in a halting voice.

“I know things will never be the same for Melissa, family and friends and loved ones. It truly breaks my heart to know that I’m the one responsible for it,” he said.

Moss said he is still trying to “seek answers” about what happened.

“I only wish I could give you everything back. Never in my right mind would I ever think about doing anything like this.”

Crown seeks 20 to 22 years of parole ineligibility

A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence, and 10 to 25 years of parole ineligibility.

Crown prosecutor Shivani Naidu-Barrett is asking to set parole ineligibility close to the maximum, at 20 to 22 years.

She said Moss clearly intended to kill Desrosiers, and deliberately sought out a pair of scissors in the kitchen that he used as a weapon.

“It is clear that he does not see the consequences of his cannabis usage. He has always maintained it was a mental illness that caused his behaviour. That is not correct,” she said.

“I expect that Mr. Moss is remorseful for his actions. … but he lacks true insight in how his behaviour caused what happened that day,” she said.

Defence lawyer Andrea Urquhart argued for Moss to be allowed to apply for parole after 13 years, asking the judge to consider his actions and his substance use in the context of trauma in his own childhood and past generations of his family.

A Gladue report, which details circumstances of a self-identified Indigenous accused’s life for a judge to consider in sentencing, was prepared for Moss. Court heard that Moss’s maternal grandmother was Métis, and his great-grandmother may have attended a residential school, but the family isn’t certain.

Urquhart said Moss is affected by intergenerational trauma, although he and his family members primarily point to the experiences of a non-Indigenous relative as the source.

Naidu-Barrett said the Crown’s position is that there is only a “remote” connection between Moss’s actions in the case and his Indigenous heritage.

“While his background is relevant to sentence, it should not be characterized as Gladue factors,” she said.

Mandziuk is expected to deliver his sentencing decision on June 21.

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