Jury finds Lisa Miel guilty of second-degree murder

[Editor's note: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.]

Lisa Miel has been found guilty of second-degree murder after hacking a man to death with a machete in Taylor in September 2015. 

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Jurors delivered their verdict Tuesday night to BC Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem following deliberations that began earlier that morning.

Miel will receive a minimum sentence of life in prison with no parole for 10 years, though Justice Meiklem has discretion to extend her parole eligibility to 25 years at a future sentencing date. She remains in custody.

Miel, 26, was convicted of killing Kirk Morin after striking him more than 50 times with a machete the night of Sept. 6, 2015, in a 20-minute attack that began in Morin's truck in the parking lot of the Taylor recreation centre. Portions of the attack were caught on surveillance video, which showed it extended to the easement between Cherry Avenue and the Alaska Highway, where Morin was found dead. He was 51.

The two were unknown to each other and had met earlier in the evening in Taylor, where Morin offered a ride to Miel, who had been bicycling to Grande Prairie, jurors were told. Miel anticipated only getting a ride to the top of the South Taylor Hill, however, Morin kept driving to a secluded area near the Old Kiskatinaw Bridge, where the two talked over beer for several hours. They argued over Miel's desire to leave and Morin's refusal to allow her, jurors heard. 

Morin had been drinking throughout the day before meeting Miel, who became concerned he was too drunk to continue driving, jurors heard. Miel offered to drive the truck back to Taylor in exchange for sex, jurors were told. 

Once they arrived at the recreation centre shortly after 10 p.m., the two continued to talk. Jurors heard Miel became increasingly frightened after Morin allegedly pulled a knife and held it close to her face while talking about young women and taxidermy. The attack began a short time later.

Defence lawyer Sigrid Thompson called forensic psychiatrist Dr. David Morgan as her only witness to the stand, who testified Miel suffered from schizophrenia and had not been taking antipsychotic medication regularly at the time of the attack. 

Morgan testified that Miel suffered from grandiose delusions, including believing that she was the "new Jesus coming to Earth," adding she believed people were "out to do her harm." Miel had stopped taking medication shortly after being hospitalized following a suicide attempt in late 2014 and later released in early 2015, Morgan testified.

"Once that antipsychotic was fully out of her body, she was exquisitely vulnerable to suffering a relapse in her illness," Morgan said.

Miel also had a family history of mental illness as well as a history of trauma, including a sexual assault at the age of 19 where the offender was never brought to justice, Morgan testified. However, Morgan testified Miel was fit to stand trial and did not believe a defence of not criminally responsible by way of a mental illness could be made.

"Ms. Miel's behaviour, in terms of the nature of the wounds, that's an attack of sustained, focused brutality. Ms. Miel herself said to me in her interview she intended to kill him and that the wounds were there with that in mind," Morgan said.

Miel also said she checked Morin's pulse after the attack and tried to move his body, Morgan testified.

"What that tells me is that this person knew that what they were doing was legally wrong. She tried to tamper with evidence," he said.

"There were a number of factors coming together. What it didn't appear to be, to me, was that it was the mental disorder driving this."

Still, Thompson called the case a "difficult situation" with "clear evidence," driven by Miel's "fear, anger, mental impulsivity, unpredictability, and disorganization."

"We submit that it is those factors, in consideration of Mr. Morin's confinement of Ms. Miel for a period of hours and insistence of having sex with her, whether she wanted to or not, that negate the intent for murder," Thompson said in her closing argument, urging the jury to support a verdict of manslaughter instead.

Crown prosecutor Dione Pizzey disagreed, saying Miel had many opportunities to escape once the pair arrived back in Taylor by driving to any home or business, or when Morin exited to fuel the truck. Miel also had the opportunity to flee after initially striking him with the machete she had been carrying in her backpack, Pizzey said.

Instead, the attack carried on for a "lengthy pursuit" of 347 metres outside of Morin's truck, or more than three football fields, Pizzey argued, while Morin's blood-alcohol levels, found to be two-and-a-half times the legal limit to drive, severely impaired his judgement and understanding of the situation. 

Pizzey questioned Morgan's assessment of Miel nearly a year-and-a-half after the attack, and reminded jurors repeatedly of Miel's statements to police of her intent to kill following her arrest.

"The only person in danger here was Mr. Morin," Pizzey told jurors in her closing argument.

"The only person who needed to defend himself that night was Mr. Morin, and the only things he had to defend himself with as he ran toward the Alaska Highway were his hands and his arms."

Miel was pulled over by police and arrested shortly after the attack while driving Morin's truck. Jurors heard Miel had returned to Morin's body several times to check his pulse and ensure he was dead. She was found wearing Morin's coveralls, and had tried to move his body to dispose of it, as well as wash away blood in the parking lot, jurors heard.

Thompson declined comment Wednesday afternoon. It's unclear whether an appeal will be filed.

Morin's family could not be immediately reached for comment.

editor@ahnfsj.ca

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