'Gutless, that's what you are': Judge accepts manslaughter pleas in fatal Beltline beating

Nearly five years after John Herrera Garcia was kicked to death while walking home with groceries, the two people who attacked and left him dying in the middle of the street apologized for their violence as they pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

"The two of you used him like he's a football, repeatedly kicking him in the head," said Justice Earl Wilson. "What did you think was going to happen?"

"Gutless, that's what you are."

Originally charged with second-degree murder, Chantelle Campbell, 32, and Jarod Henry, 26, pleaded guilty to the lesser offence on Wednesday after their lawyers, Pawel Milczarek and David Chow negotiated a deal with Crown prosecutors Gord Haight and Jennifer Crews.

Herrera Garcia, 49, died on Sept. 12, 2012 as a result of injuries suffered in the May 23, 2012 attack in Calgary's Beltline area.

Campbell and Henry were found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury in 2015. but last October the Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a new trial after it found the judge had erred in his instructions to jurors.

After facing a life sentence for her original murder conviction, Campbell acknowledged the plea to manslaughter is a "second chance."

"This is going to be the last time that you will ever see me in this court house," said Campbell in a statement.

In what prosecutor Crews described as "tragic irony," Herrera Garcia had recently fled Colombia to escape violence in his home country. He was to be reunited with his family a month after he was attacked.

The night he was killed, Campbell and Henry were waiting for a friend in a car that was parked on 14th Avenue at 6th Street S.W. around 9:30 p.m.

They heard a "thump" on the back driver's side, got out of the vehicle and chased after Herrera Garcia, who they believed had kicked the car, according to an agreed statement of facts.

After throwing him on the ground, Campbell and Henry repeatedly kicked Herrera Garcia in the head and then walked away, leaving him badly injured and lying in the middle of the road.

 "I'm so sorry for what I did," said Henry in a written statement. "I wish I could take this back ... I wish I wouldn't have acted so stupid."

When passers-by found Herrera Garcia, "he was bleeding heavily from his face and head, barely conscious and making gurgling/choking sounds," according to the agreed statement of facts.

"This was a completely random and unprovoked attack," said Crews.

She said both Campbell and Henry showed a "shocking degree of callousness" in their attack on a "defenceless and vulnerable" victim.

Herrera Garcia was taken to Foothills hospital where he remained in a persistent vegetative state with several significant head and brain injuries.

'Make something of yourselves'

An autopsy conducted after his death in September 2012 found Herrera Garcia had extensive bleeding deep within his brain. 

Wilson accepted a joint submission for a 6½-year sentence. Henry has just over two years credit for the time he's already served, while Campbell has about 4½ years credit.

On the theme of second chances, Wilson urged Campbell and Henry to turn their lives around.

"Make something of yourselves," he said. "Make your family proud of you — maybe a tiny spark of good might emerge."