Michel Cadotte, convicted in the death of his ailing wife, will serve two years minus one day after being sentenced on Tuesday.
Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Michel Cadotte was a loving husband, worn down and exhausted after “giving nine years of his life” to help his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife hold on to whatever dignity she could, suffer as little as possible and receive the treatment she deserved.But, a Superior Court judge added while sentencing him to prison Tuesday, Cadotte also “committed the irreparable” by suffocating Jocelyne Lizotte to death, an act that can’t be excused “even if it was done in the name of compassion.”Stressing how uniquely sad the case is, Justice Hélène Di Salvo sentenced Cadotte, 58, to serve two years in prison, minus a day, and a three-year probation period. Members of the couple’s families broke down in tears in the courtroom as they heard the sentence.Wearing a white dress shirt and sweater, Cadotte seemed relieved as he learned his fate, sharing a brief smile with his lawyers before lowering his head. While being handcuffed and led to detention, he turned around to wink toward his sister, who had taken him in since his arrest.In a 27-page decision she read aloud, Di Salvo described the case as a long-lasting love story that ended in tragedy.Cadotte and Lizotte had been married for 19 years. By 2017, Lizotte had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly a decade. The trial heard how, by the end, she could no longer recognize anyone, couldn’t talk, struggled to eat and needed to be strapped down 24 hours a day. She was 60 years old.On Feb. 20, 2017, Cadotte entered Lizotte’s long-term care facility and grew angry by what he perceived to be a lack of care. He fed Lizotte through tears, then pressed a pillow over her head until she stopped breathing. He told a nurse and then sat next to Lizotte on her bed, waiting for police officers to come arrest him.Cadotte has maintained he killed Lizotte out of compassion after years of helplessly witnessing her deteriorate and suffer. A medical aid in dying request he made on her behalf the previous year was denied, since Lizotte couldn’t consent to it and wasn’t considered at the end of her life.Cadotte was charged with second-degree murder for the killing. In February, a jury found him guilty of the lesser manslaughter charge instead.But in her decision on his sentence, Di Salvo noted the facts of the case make it closer to being a murder than a deadly accident. And the “message needs to be clear,” the judge ruled.“You cannot do this to someone who is ill, vulnerable, dependent and incapable of expressing their will,” she said. “Even if they’ve expressed a desire to die in the past.”Throughout her decision, Di Salvo acknowledged the case reignited debates over issues much larger than the case itself, naming medical aid in dying legislation, the state of CHSLDs and the help provided to caregivers and people living with Alzheimer’s disease as examples.“However,” she added, “the trial, the verdict, and the sentence will not solve all these societal issues.”During sentencing arguments, several members of the couple’s families testified of heartbreak, shock, betrayal and how divided the family has become as a result of Cadotte’s actions.“I can understand the act, I can forgive it without accepting it,” Lizotte’s son, David Désautels, had told the judge. “But I can’t forgive him for destroying my family, his family,”After delivering the sentence Tuesday, Di Salvo addressed the families directly, thanking them for their time and courage.“I had told you it would be one of the hardest decisions I would need to render, and I can now confirm that it was the hardest,” she said. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that your mourning can now begin, quietly.“I hope you can live it slowly, intimately, and as a family.”The defence had argued Cadotte shouldn’t serve any jail time, while the Crown had pushed for an eight-year prison term.Di Salvo gave Cadotte a sentence of two years and 204 days in prison. Given the time he has already spent detained, he will have two years, minus one day, left to serve.Prosecutor Geneviève Langlois told reporters the Crown will closely review the decision before deciding if it will appeal the sentence.Defence lawyer Elfriede Duclervil said she was disappointed with the sentence. She then took the opportunity to reiterate how the case shed light on gaps in the health system — especially when it comes to helping caregivers — that pushed Cadotte to his breaking point.“Michel Cadotte gave (Lizotte) all the love he could,” Duclervil said. “All he wanted was for her to be in a facility where she could get the proper help (she needed). Nothing else.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/jessefeithRelated