The family of Joey English expressed anger outside a Calgary courthouse Friday after a judge warned them not to expect a hefty sentence for the man convicted of dismembering and discarding her body last spring.
Joshua Weise is not accused of killing English, and police say the cause of her death is still undetermined, though they believe it was not a homicide.
- INTERACTIVE | Joey English profile page on CBC's MMIW database
Judge Mike Dinkel pointed out that most charges of indignity to human remains are tied to homicides. He said more time was needed to study case law before sentencing.
"You may not be satisfied by any penalty imposed here and I sincerely get that," he told the family in court.
"The only way I can do my job is to follow the law."
'It's very tragic'
Even the Crown prosecutor on the case said the longest sentence he could hope for was 18 to 24 months in jail.
"The maximum penalty under the Criminal Code for this offence is five years, but the case law supports something a lot less than that," said Ken McCaffrey.
"So it's very tragic and I feel very sympathetic towards the family. Very hard duty today, and it's very hard on them."
English was reported missing by her family two days before some of her remains were found in a lightly wooded area in Crescent Heights.
Police searched a Calgary landfill in an attempt to find more of English's remains, but called off the search after four months.
As CBC News reported at that time, the family said police did not inform them the search had been called off.
'She's in the landfill'
"I just can't understand, where are my daughter's body parts? Where are her arms? Where are her legs?" said English's mom, Stephanie English.
"Why did they stop the search? Is that what they think of us? Junk? Garbage? She's in the landfill. Why did they stop?"
She said the justice system is failing Canadians and the possible sentence is a slap on the wrist that says it's OK to do this to someone's remains.
For Joey's cousin Brailon English, the tragedy adds to an ever-present fear.
"I don't feel safe out on my own in the city. I never have felt safe out in the city by myself as an Aboriginal person, as a two-spirit person," he said.
"I can't just be myself and not worry about these things happening. I think a lot of people are not realizing the fact they have that privilege, they have that ability to go out in the streets by themselves and not worry at all."
Family members reject apology
Inside the courtroom on Friday, Weise — who has a long history of addiction and drug use — said he was extremely high when he committed the crime.
Wearing a black hoodie and showing no emotion during the proceedings, he finally broke down sobbing as he struggled through an apology.
About 20 English family members got up and left the room when Weise began speaking, refusing to listen to the apology.
The sentencing is now scheduled for April 12.