SAINT-JÉRÔME, Que. — A Quebec man was sentenced to life in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to the February 2020 murder of 13-year-old Océane Boyer.
François Sénécal was sentenced after entering a plea on a reduced charge of second-degree murder at the courthouse in St-Jérôme, Que., as the victim's family packed the courtroom.
He was arrested and initially charged with first-degree murder in the days after the 13-year-old girl’s body was found on Feb. 26, 2020, by the side of a public road in Brownsburg-Chatham, Que., northwest of Montreal. She had been reported missing by her family after she failed to return from school.
Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau agreed with a joint recommendation by the Crown and defence that he spend 19 years in prison before being eligible for parole. A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence.
Charbonneau didn't go into details but described the crime as despicable and cowardly.
Sénécal, now 53, was a longtime friend of Boyer's family and the victim considered him an uncle.
“Everyone trusted him," Charbonneau said.
"However, rather than face the consequences of the acts of a sexual nature he had committed, François Sénécal preferred to kill the young victim to silence her, and then erase all traces that could link to him by removing her pants, covered with hair from his dog,” Charbonneau said.
Her family and relatives told the court they will forever live with the hurt, pain and anger of losing Boyer.
“She was so young — 13 years old — how you do something so terrible, we will never understand what could have pushed you to commit such an act and if that wasn’t enough, you let us live through hell by waiting two years before pleading guilty,” Caroline Sarrazin, the young girl's mother, told Sénécal.
“You ruined our lives, you took away a part of ourselves."
Véronique Sarrazin, one of the young girl’s aunts, said Feb. 26 will forever be engraved in the minds of the family. She told Sénécal that forgiveness was not an option. “That day that you committed the irreparable, that day you took away our beautiful Océane, our little angel,” the aunt told the court. “Our family will never be able to make up for her loss.”
Sénécal cried as he said he wish he could go back and undo what had been done.
"I know my apologies are worth nothing, but I apologize the same," he told the court in tears. "I would like to ask for forgiveness, but what I did is not forgivable."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.
— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.
The Canadian Press