A New Brunswick man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend, who was stabbed in the neck while her two young sons watched at their Grand Falls home.
Jonathan Beck Fontaine, 32, pleaded guilty in January to the second-degree murder of Mindy Godin, who died on Dec. 21, 2020.
He will have no chance of parole for 14 years, Justice Zoël Dionne decided, agreeing with a joint-sentencing recommendation on parole eligibility made by defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux and Crown prosecutor Charles Couturier.
Dionne said the circumstances and gravity of the murder, emphasizing it occurred in front of children, required a strong sentence.
"Punishment shall overtake rehabilitation in terms of balancing the competing interests," said Dionne, speaking in the Court of King's Bench in Edmundston.
Before the sentencing, Godin's sister and stepsister watched and listened as Couturier outlined the facts of the December 2020 killing.
Couturier said Fontaine is originally from Quebec and was placed in a group home at age 12. He faced "difficulties" during his teenage years, leading to an alcohol and drug problems that were not addressed, court heard.
Argument turned violent
Fontaine is the father of a teenage girl from a past relationship and a 12-year-old child from another relationship. Couturier said he had two sons with Godin, and their relationship was "strained."
A few days before the attack, Fontaine and Godin separated after a common-law relationship of six years, court heard.
Couturier told court Fontaine had a long-standing problem with addiction and at the time was suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
Fontaine was at home in Grand Falls with the couple's two boys when he contacted Godin at the McDonald's restaurant where she worked. He asked her to come pick up their sons and drive him to the hospital because he was not feeling well, court heard.
When Godin arrived, Couturier said, Fontaine was in the kitchen preparing food for their sons. The children, three and four years old at the time, were on the stairs with a full view of the kitchen.
Couturier said an argument broke out and quickly turned violent.
'He's going to kill me'
In the heat of the moment, Fontaine repeatedly stabbed Godin with the knife he was holding, court heard. Immediately upon realizing what he had done, Fontaine left the home and went to a nearby store, Dépanneur Léo and asked staff to call 911.
Godin made her way to the same convenience store and told the owner in French: "He's going to kill me, please help me."
Godin collapsed and died at the entrance of the store before help could arrive. She was 32.
Couturier said Fontaine remained on scene and was taken into custody by Grand Falls police without incident. He was charged the next day.
Couturier said an autopsy was conducted at the Grand Falls Regional Hospital, which determined the cause of death to be multiple sharp force injuries to the neck.
"A mother is lost, as well as a sister and family member, as well as a dad," he said.
Second-degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison, with parole eligibility ranging from a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of 25.
Couturier said a sentence beyond the minimum for parole would be appropriate, given the impact and involvement of domestic violence.
Godin's family opted not to speak at the sentencing.
Judge reads note from Fontaine
Her murder shocked Godin's small northeastern New Brunswick community, prompting residents to hold a vigil in her memory.
Lemieux presented the court with a handwritten letter he said Fontaine drafted the night before. He said his client asked him to submit it on his behalf because he wasn't certain he would be able to adequately address the court.
When asked by Dionne, Fontaine confirmed he would not speak himself.
After reading the written letter, Dionne said he believed the Crown and defence had struck a proper balance.
"The words appear to be sincere on the part of Mr. Fontaine, that he not only expresses — the court believes he feels — remorse," he said after reading the letter, which was not read out loud.