An Ontario man found guilty of murder in the killing of the popular owner of an upscale Mississauga spa was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years.
Quebec Court Justice Frederick Pentland said Thursday that Alexandre Bissonnette carried out an organized scheme to stage a brazen daytime crime that resulted in Henrietta Houle’s death on February 9, 2015.
“The accused, Alexandre Bissonnette, took direct and active part in the killing,” Pentland said.
“He committed his crime as a calculating individual who was far too young to kill a person in that manner.”
Bissonnette, 28, listened attentively to Pentland as the court began proceedings. His head covered with a white towel, he occasionally stood to review the courtroom-wide map with the judge.
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One of the people on Houle’s murder list and a longtime client, Arnaud Desjardins, took the stand earlier Thursday, insisting that he had no doubts Bissonnette was at the scene when Houle was stabbed multiple times in the neck.
“I saw him. I was there,” said Desjardins, who now lives in the United States.
“I wasn’t afraid. I think it was just a brutal murder. I saw it all over social media. I didn’t think he did it just because he was frustrated.”
In his remarks, the judge told Bissonnette that although Houle’s death was an isolated incident, he was a victim of an organized scheme that had to have been planned well in advance and played out under brilliant sunshine on the middle of a day.
“It is hoped that the individual who would buy the contract killing, whether the contract was executed or not, received the help of an agent who was recruited by the accused,” the judge said.
“The agent would commit the crime for a price and the person who pays the money would be protected from reprisals.”
Bissonnette was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and weapons offences for killing Houle, along with her boyfriend Myron George and her employee Jeanette Stevens.
Houle, 51, and Stevens, 52, were found stabbed to death in Houle’s condo at the Grand Estates of Hespeler in Mississauga. George’s body was found in the basement after police responded to an emergency call.
Bissonnette’s trial heard that Houle, a longtime fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of Canada, was targeted after posing as a client to generate a major insurance payout for her son.
On the night of her death, Houle and Stevens had called Bissonnette from a cellphone to tell him they had completed the sale of a condo they owned together, according to the judge.
“Nothing could have been farther from their minds than she was to follow up on the sale,” Pentland said.
Bissonnette, a graduate of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, was arrested within days of the murders and confessed, testifying that he decided to commit a “pity killing” after being frustrated over the lack of results from his work for Houle’s son.
“My naivete is gone,” Bissonnette testified. “I felt that I had an obligation to make amends to Myron.”
In recent days, Houle’s family and friends met privately with Bissonnette’s parents in order to discuss the sentence imposed.
After the hearing, Houle’s friends addressed the court as victims. One took aim at Bissonnette’s portrayal as an idealistic photographer who expressed worries over being unemployed and trying to pay off large student debts.
“You’re just a really violent man,” Cynthia Fowler said to Bissonnette. “I don’t see your motives.”
After the court-ordered publication ban on the victim-impact statements was lifted, Fowler said her heart ached for Houle’s son, who also attended the hearing.
“He’s lost his mom and doesn’t even have words to express it,” Fowler said.