November 5, 2010
EDMONTON - The final act of a "Greek tragedy" unfolded in court Thursday after a grandma accused of first-degree murder pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Anne Semenovich, 74, was given a four-year jail term.
"This case is nothing short of a Greek tragedy," said Crown prosecutor Jeff Morrison.
"That (slaying) has ripped apart every life it has touched."
Semenovich was charged with first-degree murder and interfering with human remains after her husband's body was found stuffed in an incinerator at a Spruce Grove, Alta., property on April 29, 2008.
She pleaded guilty to to a lesser charge of manslaughter Thursday and guilty to the second charge.
She will serve four years for the killing, to run concurrently with a two-year sentence for interfering with human remains.
Four years is the minimum sentence that can be given for using a firearm in a homicide.
The body of Alex Semenovich, 77, was found by a repairman called to the acreage just west of Edmonton to fix the broken-down machine.
The elderly man became increasingly violent with his wife of 50 years in the years preceding his death, court heard.
He threatened her with a knife, baseball bat, and once threw a pair of crutches at her in a fit of rage, the jury heard.
The grandpa had also threatened to kill her.
Those circumstances make the case especially tragic, Morrison told reporters outside court.
"We have this terrible act which stemmed from decades and decades of horrific abuse," he said.
"Obviously the homicide isn't justifiable - you shouldn't take a gun and kill people - but it stemmed from all those years of pain and misery."
It's been one of the most difficult cases of Morrison's career, he said.
"I've done a lot of homicides in the course of my career," he said. "I've never had a case as gruelling as this."
Semenovich's lawyer, Laura Stevens, said her client hoped to enjoy the last bit of her life in comfort after being released.
"You have heard a lot of circumstances about Mrs. Semenovich's life, her very difficult childhood, difficult marriage," Stevens told court.
"She hopes at some point to be released and to try and have her last years in some improved circumstances."
The plea was a surprise move after court listened to two days of strong, incriminating testimony from her grandson.
Brian Semenovich testified he gave his grandma a gun for protection and said she later confessed to shooting his grandpa.
Justice Eric Macklin said he felt the recommended sentence, submitted jointly by the Crown and defence, was a suitable one.
"She lived in fear of what her husband might do to her, and especially to her grandsons," he said in the Court of Queen's Bench.
"This is a tragic case with a tragic history, and tragic consequences."