Emotional sentencing hearing for former Hantsport man convicted of murder in St. John's

Rosie Gillingham
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David Folker is pictured in Newfoundland Supreme Court Dec. 4.

The man who murdered his common-law wife and dumped her body should not be eligible for parole for 18 years, the Crown told a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge today.

"The many aggravating features justify that term," prosecutor Lloyd Strickland said during the sentencing hearing of convicted murderer David Folker.

A jury found a Folker guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Ann Marie Shirran and committing an indignity to her body.

The mandatory sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison. The only issue to determine is how long he has to be in jail before he can apply for parole.

Strickland said the range for such crimes are between 15 and 18 years. He said the top of that range is appropriate.

He said there are four aggravating features

1: Folker's decision to hide Shirran's body and "engage in a facade and web of lies to cover it up."

2. Folker's actions left a young child without his mother "at an age when he needs her the most."

3. The victim was Folker's common-law wife.

"Murders against partners should be seen as the most serious crimes a person can commit," Strickland said.

4. The jury's recommendation on parole eligibility.

Of the 12 jury members, half of them recommended Folker not be eligible for parole for 20 years. Three recommended 25 years, one said 17 years and two 18 years.

Defence lawyer Scott Hurley said 12-14 years for parole eligibility is more appropriate, pointing to several other cases, many from this province, in which the offenders received a lesser range for parole eligibility.

He pointed out what Folker did was a spontaneous act after discussions of custody.

"There was no planning or deliberation," Hurley said.

He said Folker also expressed remorse and took responsibility for her death from early on in the trial.

There was plenty of emotion in court today when Shirran's family members read their victim impact statements.

Shirran's mother, Dianne Baggs, said what happened "is a mother's worst nightmare."

Her voice quivered as she spoke.

She said it was torture when Shirran went missing. When her body was found, Baggs said she suffered "a wound to my heart."

"For the last three years I've had my liberty and I am very much aware that I didn't deserve it." David Folker

She then spoke of Shirran’s and Folker's son, who Baggs said has separation anxiety and frequently asks for his mother.

"Some day he will come to know the truth," Baggs said, adding it will be devastating to him.

Shirran's brother Dana Harrell said Shirran's death has caused, "overwhelming changes that have impacted every aspect of my life."

He said he has tremendous anger towards Folker and feelings of vengeance. He said he has sleepless nights and cries often. Since Shirran's death, he said he's been through four jobs, had his 30-year marriage end and lost his home. He said he's even had to sleep in his car. He's sought psychiatric help to deal with the pain.

Shirran's father Jon Baggs wasn't in court. Strickland read his statement, telling of devastation their family has suffered.

When Folker was given the opportunity to speak, his voice quivered and he wiped tears.

"For the last three years I've had my liberty and I am very much aware that I didn't deserve it," he said. "It was a comfortable hell."

He went on to say, "When I see a boy and his father, I feel faint and sick. When I see a boy with his mother, I feel paralyzed."

Folker said he cries every day and apologized profusely to Shirran's family.

"I don't know how to apologize without sounding like it's an insult. There's not enough words in any language to express the depths of (my remorse).”

He then directed his comments to their son.

"I've failed you. I have failed you in every way," he said. "To your mother's family, there's no way to ease the pain."

He said he was glad his son has such loving care.

He thanked his family and friends for standing by him and apologized to the police, which put so many resources into trying to find Shirran after he lied that she was missing.

"To the people of St. John's, Newfoundland, I love this province and I contaminated it."

He vowed he would never return.

"I don't see any way you can forgive me," he said. "I can't forgive myself. I'm sorry."

Justice Wayne Dymond will render his decision on sentencing Dec. 17.

Geographic location: St. John's, Hantsport, Newfoundland

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