'I had a terrible, evil feeling inside of me,' man tells family of toddler he killed
Karrson Bennett says he's always fought against urges to hurt himself and others.
Growing up, his younger sister usually bore the brunt of his violence, Bennett told a court Wednesday during the final stages of his lengthy sentencing hearing after pleading guilty in March to second-degree murder.
Bennett, who turns 25 on Saturday, said he's tried to figure out why he killed a two-year-old boy by pushing a Ping-Pong ball into his throat, but he said he still doesn't understand why he did it.
"I had a terrible, evil feeling inside of me … and I let it overpower my body," Bennett said, reading from a prepared statement and facing the boy's family to deliver it. "It was something I never believed I could do.
"What I did was pure evil. It was an act of the devil. Every time I look in a mirror, I am so sick with disgust, with regret, and with so much hate."
Addressing several of them by name, beginning with the boy's mother and grandmother, he apologized "from the bottom of my heart."
He said they're in his prayers every day "and I will regret this for as long as I live."
Bennett said the boy, whose identity is protected by a court order, didn't deserve what happened to him. He said not a day goes by that he doesn't think of him and miss him.
"I hate myself more than you could ever begin to hate me," he told the boy's family.
He said he wished he could go back in time and trade his life for the boy's.
Bennett agrees with 22 years
Before Bennett addressed the court, Crown prosecutor Elaina Campbell summarized where the Crown stands on sentencing.
Although second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence, the judge must still determine how many years Bennett must serve before he's eligible for parole. The minimum is 10 years and the maximum 25 years.
Campbell said the Crown would like to see him serve 22 years.
"The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick has endorsed the understanding that decisions involving the murder of a child, in practice, support the 'upper range' for parole ineligibility for what has been cautiously referred to as the worst of offenders in the worst of cases," the Crown says in its written submission to the court.
"However, the Crown maintains that Bennett fits into the category of the 'worst group of offences and worst group of offenders.'"
Based on his experience, defence lawyer David Lutz said he agreed with the Crown that 22 years "is the appropriate sentence."
He said Bennett "understands the heinousness of what he did and … wants to get on with his rehabilitation."
Lutz told the court that this is his 48th homicide case, "and I've never seen a sadder person."
Potentially precedent setting
In her remarks to the court summarizing the Crown's position, Campbell said that if the court were to agree to 22 years of parole ineligibility, it would be the first time a court in New Brunswick exceeded 20 years for second-degree murder.
"But Madam Justice, this is the case," insisted Campbell.
Because it's potentially precedent setting, Justice Kathryn Gregory said she wants to be able to put her decision in writing. She delayed sentencing until next Wednesday.
Campbell said the justice system is particularly harsh with offenders who hurt toddlers.
"Toddlers are at the mercy of their caregivers," she said. "And that's reflected in the Criminal Code and why hurting a toddler is considered an aggravating factor.
"Mr. Bennett killed a two-year-old child who was completely at his mercy. It's almost sadistic because he inserts himself in these situations and gains their trust.
Why did he ask to look after him "and later that night kill him?" wondered Campbell.
She said that question will probably "haunt the family forever."
She also said Bennett "has limited prospects for rehabilitation." Having hurt a child before, she said, he clearly lacks insight if he put himself in that position again.
Not the first time
In 2018, Bennett was charged with trying to kill a girl under the age of two. He eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to three years in prison.
In fact, he was still on probation for that offence, when he met another young mother in 2021 and within six months, he killed her two-year-old son by shoving a plastic ball into his throat.
The court heard that Bennett offered to take the boy overnight to give the mom a break. She said it was the first time the boy had been allowed to stay with Bennett alone overnight.
He admits intending to kill the boy when he shoved the ball in the boy's mouth, but he said he inadvertently pushed the ball into the throat when he tried to get the ball out.