There were feelings of relief for the family of a Princeton murder victim after a “long, torturous haul.”
John Ike Koopmans, 51, received two life sentences and will be ineligible for parole for 22 years after Justice Miriam Maisonville handed down Koopmans’ sentence on Oct. 6 in Penticton Supreme Court.
“We’re ready to move forward,” said Cheri Franklin, sister of Robert Keith Wharton, 43, who was shot and killed on a rural Princeton property March 2013 alongside Rosemary Fox, 32.
Koopmans was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder and the attempted murder of Bradley Martin, 51, by a jury in April.
Franklin, who spoke on behalf of the Wharton family outside the courthouse after the sentence was handed down, said she is “unbelievably happy that it’s over.”
“We can maybe go forward and feel good — I can’t believe the Crown did this, he did it for us and wow. I don’t even know what to say. Such relief, such anxiety just lifted off my shoulders,” Franklin said fighting back tears. “It’s amazing, it’s amazing.”
“The justice system finally worked,” Franklin said. “No possibility of parole for 22 years, he’s going to be an old man.”
Koopmans who wore a brown, collared shirt and black pants at the hearing chose not to address the court when given the opportunity. He said nothing through the sentencing proceedings and showed no emotion.
“I’ve known John for quite a long time and he’s never showed any kind of emotion through the whole thing. There’s not been one bit of emotion from him, so I had no expectations of him saying anything you know. He’s a ruthless killer, what can you say?” Franklin said.
Facing two life sentences, the decision Justice Maisonville faced was one of parole eligibility. Koopmans’ defence suggested a 17-year period of ineligibility, while Crown put forward two consecutive periods of 15 years, totalling 30 years before he would be eligible for parole. Maisonville included relatively new legislation in her decision, Bill C-48, which amended the Criminal Code in 2011 aiming to enable judges to use parole ineligibility periods as instruments of denunciation.
The new sections of the Criminal Code were first used in 2013 in the case of Travis Baumgartner. It also allows juries to make recommendations on parole ineligibility periods.
Maisonville told the court that the two consecutive 15-year periods of parole ineligibility suggested by the Crown and seven of the 12 jurors would be “unduly long.”
She said that the new section in the Criminal Code, which allows judges to use their discretion when determining whether parole ineligibility periods should be served consecutively or at the same time “is a new section and it remains to be seen how its applications will evolve.”
“Instead I interpret the jury’s recommendation as an indication that the jury felt that this was a very serious crime,” she said.
She made sure to note that a parole eligibility period “means just that.”
“Mr. Koopmans will be eligible for parole, not that he will be granted parole, the sentence remains one of life,” Maisonville said.
“I think it’s within the range, it’s within the appropriate range of sentence,” said Crown prosecutor Frank Dubenski. “It’s still a significant sentence in this province. Generally cases of multiple murder have attracted minimum eligibility for parole at 20 years.”
Cries of relief could be heard outside the courthouse from the Wharton family.
“He got what he deserved. My family can finally move on,” Franklin said.