The family of two murder victims has waited over five years for their day in court, but now it has come to pass.
Edward John Chomiak has been sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder of his ex-wife, Melody Lee-Perry.
He has also been convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Jerica Bouchard. Some family members were in tears following the trial.
‘They were beautiful people,” says Brenda Pearson, who is Lee-Perry’s sister. “Happy people.”
For Pearson, the anguish will continue, even though Chomiak has been convicted.
“There’s never closure,” she says. “We’ll never see them again. You can’t take the pain away that’s been caused.”
Cindy McKay-Perry, the sister-in-law of Lee-Perry, is pleased they’ve had their day in court.
“It’s about time,” says McKay-Perry.
“Our family has been in limbo since the first court appearance. I’m glad the day has finally come.”
The wounds have been festering for a long time, McKay-Perry adds, and she hopes the healing can start.
“Their souls can rest. It’s about them. It’s about the beautiful lives that have been ripped from us. She was my sister-in-law and I loved her.”
The five-day trial
Chomiak’s murder trial was held in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Peace River during Aug. 8-12. The trial was by judge alone, with Madame Justice M.T. Moreau presiding.
The first three days were devoted to court proceedings and testimony. The fourth day was devoted to the verdicts and the reading of several victim impact statements.
The judge, Crown prosecutor and defence counsel had to determine the admissibility of some of the victim impact statements and one was excluded.
Some people chose to read their statements openly and others declined.
The judge read the latter ones to herself and they were entered into evidence.
The Express obtained the full copies of each of the victim impact statements and they begin on Page 1 of this week’s paper.
The fourth day of the trial
At the end of the fourth day, on August 11, following the victim impact statements, Madame Justice M.T. Moreau summarized the case and offered her verdicts in both deaths.
The judge noted that Lee-Perry died of multiple gunshot wounds. The Crown prosecutor, David Stilwell, emphasized that Chomiak had planned the murders. However, the defence counsel said that the Crown had failed to prove that he had planned to kill them.
The Crown relied on the 911 call by Lee-Perry, which she made during the night of December 15, 2010, for evidence that Chomiak intended to murder her.
The Crown asserted that one of the voices on the 911 call was that of Sara Schapansky. Defence counsel said it couldn’t be proven that it was her voice.
Also, the police arrested Chomiak in a 2002 GMC pickup truck and they found a .22 pistol, a loaded rifle and the related ammunition.
The defence counsel said there was no evidence of Chomiak’s footprints in the mobile home, and there were contradictions about the type of headlights on the vehicle he allegedly drove.
The judge had some reservations about the Crown’s case. She said that the footwear evidence submitted by the Crown did not prove that it belonged to Chomiak.
The judge also said that, while there was evidence that Bouchard died from gunshot wounds, she could not confirm that Chomiak knew that she was in the mobile home on the night of the murders.
Therefore, the judge could only find him guilty of second-degree murder in her death.
However, the judge found pre-mediation in the murder of Lee-Perry, highlighting that Chomiak used information on Facebook to find her. Also, Chomiak’s plan wasn’t to scare Lee-Perry; he deliberately planned to murder her when he went to the mobile on the night of December 15, 2010.
Moreover, the Crown had proven that Chomiak shot her multiple times. Also, Schapansky could identify Chomiak as the person who was at the mobile home that night.
Based on these and other findings, Madame Justice M.T. Moreau found Chomiak guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Lee-Perry, and second-degree murder in the death of Bouchard.
Following the verdicts, the Crown made his submission for sentencing. He requested a life sentence for Lee-Perry’s murder, without the possibility of parole for 25 years. He left the second-degree murder sentencing to the discretion of the judge.
The Crown also requested a firearms prohibition and forfeiture of the firearms used in the murders. The use of the firearms in the murders was an aggravating factor, he added. A DNA order was recommended as well.
The fifth day of the trial
During the morning of the fifth day of the trial, on August 12, defence counsel made his sentencing submissions to the judge.
Among other things, the defence counsel noted that Chomiak had no previous criminal record and commented that he had lived a “valuable life.”
However, his mental and emotional state weren’t “as they should have been” at the time of the murders.
Chomiak lived in Nampa all his life and his parents were dairy farmers. His father had a drinking problem, but he did not abuse him.
Also, throughout his life, Chomiak worked hard and did a lot of volunteer work, including building construction and road plowing.
As for sentencing in Bouchard’s murder, the defence counsel recommended no possibility of parole for 12 years.
The judge offered Chomiak the opportunity to speak on his own behalf.
“I’m very sorry that things happened the way they did,” Chomiak said. “It is not whom I am in character.”
Later, the judge announced her sentence. She commented that, concerning the death of Lee-Perry, and based on the victim impact statements she reviewed, that the deceased “are missed.”
Also, the murders were “brutal and horrific,” and that the “911 call is only a small window” on Lee-Perry’s death. The judge sentenced Chomiak to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years in her death.
As for Bouchard’s murder, the judge commented that it was “callous and brutal,” and the victim was “cut down in the prime of her life.”
However, Chomiak is not at risk of repeat violence, given “his character.” The judge sentenced Chomiak to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years, for Bouchard’s murder.
The judge also imposed a firearms prohibition under Section 109 of the Criminal Code of Canada and granted the forfeiture of the seized firearms.
A DNA order was also granted.
Outside the court office, several family members spoke to the media about their reactions to the verdicts, as did the defence counsel, who said he plans to appeal the convictions. The Crown declined to comment.
Look for video clips of the interviews on the Express’ Facebook page.