WATCH: One of the most notorious cases in Canada of a parent killing their children involved the Handel family, living in the tiny, remote Vancouver Island community of Quatsino. Mary Griffin is following this story and joins us live.
Jay Handel is serving six concurrent life sentences for killing his six children in 2002. It’s one of several cases where the defence involves a claim that the children are better off dead rather than remaining with the surviving parent.
It remains one of Canada’s most heinous crimes. On March 11, 2002, in the tiny community of Quatsino on northern Vancouver Island, Handel set fire to his family’s home after killing his six children.
RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Grant Learned confirmed the deaths the following day.
“Remains of Mr. Handel’s children were found at the scene, of an early morning fire that consumed the family home on March 11,” Learned had said.
At the time of the murders, Handel and his wife Sonya were living apart. During his trial, his lawyer described him as depressed and suicidal over a perceived affair between his wife and another Quatsino resident. Handel strangled two of his children and shot the other four.
Charged with six counts of first-degree murder, the jury rejected his defence that Handel killed the children to keep the family together. The jury deliberated for two days before delivering the guilty verdict. Crown prosecutor Darrell Previtt said justice was done in this sad case.
“The crown is gratified that the jury saw the evidence the way the crown did, obviously. I think from our perspective, justice was done,” Previtt said.
Handell will remain in prison with no chance of parole until 2028.
In 1997, police officers made a grisly discovery in a Black Creek house. Courtenay RCMP Sgt. Dean Hodgson confirmed the news. “No death is pleasant. There are children involved, and it’s a grisly scene.”
After the discovery of five bodies, a female adult and four children in Black Creek in 1997, the killer remained at large. Police arrested David John Gorton after a massive manhunt and charged him with second-degree murder. But Hodgson was clearly shaken when questioned by reporters and didn’t want to describe the scene inside, saying it was the worst he had ever seen.
After a psychiatric assessment, Gorton went to trial. He pleaded guilty and is currently serving five concurrent sentences.
In October of 2017, 34-year-old Kaela Mehl’s trial focused on her mental state prior to the death of her 18-month old daughter Charlotte. Mehl admitted to killing her daughter. But psychiatrist Dr. Shabreham Lohrasbe testified that the relationship between Mehl and her ex-husband was so toxic, that she killed her daughter to save her. But a jury found her guilty and she is currently serving a 25-year life sentence.