NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia – Convicted serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton won't be eligible for parole for a minimum of 25 years, the maximum penalty allowed by law, a judge ruled Tuesday after hearing gripping testimony from victims' relatives.
The 15-year-old daughter of a woman murdered by the Canadian pig farmer said in a statement read aloud in court that her slaying was "like ripping out my heart."
Pickton was convicted Sunday of second-degree murder in the killings of six women and received an automatic life sentence. He could have been eligible for parole in as little as 10 years. Authorities said he butchered the women's remains and fed them to his pigs.
Pickton still faces 20 more murder charges for the deaths of women, most of them prostitutes and drug addicts from a seedy Vancouver neighborhood. If convicted on all those charges, he would become Canada's worst serial killer. Police are also investigating the cases of almost 40 other missing women.
The families of the victims cheered when Judge James Williams ordered Pickton to serve the maximum penalty.
"Mr. Pickton's conduct was murderous and repeatedly so. I cannot know the details of what happened," Williams said. "I do know this: Each of these women were murdered and their remains were dismembered. What happened to them was senseless and despicable.
"Today this court heard from a number of people whose lives have been altered and forever changed by these murders. Mr. Pickton, there is really nothing that I can say to adequately express the revulsion that the community feels about these killings."
As the judge spoke, Pickton stood with his hands clasped in front of him and shook his head.
The family members had cried and prosecutor Michael Petrie choked up as he read victim-impact statements at Tuesday's hearing. Prosecutors are pushing for a maximum 25 years in prison before Pickton can seek parole.
Staring directly at Pickton, Lynn Frey read a statement from her granddaughter Brittney, whose mother Marnie Frey, was among the victims. Part of Marnie Frey's jaw bone was found on Pickton's farm.
"Mr. Pickton, why did you hurt my real mother and those other women?" the teenager wrote. "I have to go through each day. I ask myself. 'What would it be like if my real mother were here?' Mr. Pickton, why did you do that?"
"When you took her from me, it was like ripping out my heart."
Karin Joesbury wrote that her daughter Andrea was a "lovely, creative girl who wound up in a freezer, cut into parts."
Rick Frey, Marnie's father, smiled as he left the courtroom.
"That's great, that's good, that's what we wanted," said Frey. "We didn't think we'd get that but, yeah, it's perfect."
Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but the jury found Pickton guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charges, finding that the killings were not planned.