Editor's note: Warning, this story contains graphic content.
Jacob Forman, who murdered his family almost two years ago in Kelowna, will spend at least the next 35 years in prison.
Judge Allan Betton sentenced Forman on Monday to consecutive life sentences for bludgeoning his wife Clara and strangling his two young daughters, Yesenia and Karina.
It’s the first time in B.C. that consecutive life sentences have been given to a multiple murderer.
“This breach of trust of such young children, vulnerable and trusting of their father, was horrific,” Betton said in passing sentence.
Including the two years he’s been in custody since his arrest in December 2017, Forman will not be eligible for parole until 2052, when he will be 68 years old.
Forman showed no emotion as he was sentenced and led out of the courtroom.
The consecutive life sentences — of 10 years before parole eligibility for the second-degree murder of Clara, and 25 years before parole eligibility for the first-degree murder of his two children — were appropriate given the particular circumstances of the crimes, Betton said.
The killings were separate events, occurring several hours apart, Betton noted. While he may have been angry during the confrontation with his wife, Forman had several hours to contemplate and then carry out the murders of his children, even shovelling the walk with them and taking them to church, Betton said.
“These were deliberate and horrific acts carried out after the heat of any anger he had towards Clara had to have evaporated,” Betton said of the children’s murders.
In court, Forman’s earlier confession to police was used to provide a description of events leading up to the killings. He’d spent part of Dec. 17, 2017, avoiding Clara, worried she was going to talk to him about his excessive drinking.
During an argument in the couple’s bedroom, inside their home on Bolotzky Court in Rutland, Forman picked up a sledgehammer and repeatedly struck Clara.
Her last words, uttered between the first and second of three deadly blows, were “What are you doing?”
After killing his wife behind the closed bedroom door, Forman was asked by the girls why their mother had been screaming. He told them she’d seen a spider.
Forman then shovelled the walk with his girls and took them to church, where he stayed behind after the service to help put away chairs. After returning home, he killed the children.
“He said (during a confession to police) he thought it would be better for them to go home to heaven than to grow up in a world where Daddy had killed Mommy,” Crown prosecutor Murray Kaay said.
After telling the girls to put on their pyjamas and letting them watch Netflix for a while, Forman told his daughters he wanted to “play a game” with them, Kaay said.
First, he took seven-year-old Yesenia to her bedroom.
“Mr. Forman choked her from behind and she passed out right away,” Kaay said. “He continued to choke her until her heart stopped.”
Forman also used a child’s toy, a horse head on a stick, to apply pressure to Yesenia’s throat.
After murdering Yesenia, Forman killed eight-year-old Karina the same way, Kaay said.
Forman, who owned a .22-calibre rifle, then spent several hours contemplating suicide, but decided against it. He moved the bodies to the garage, wrapping Clara’s body in a sleeping bag and putting Yesenia’s and Karina’s bodies into two Rubbermaid containers.
Forman went to work as usual the next day, and bought cleaning supplies on the way home to try to remove the bloodstains from the master bedroom.
Concerned when Clara didn’t show up for work on Dec. 19, friends twice called the Formans’ residence. On the first call, Forman said his wife wasn’t feeling well. The second time, he said Clara had left him and taken the children.
The friend called police, who went to the Formans’ home. Forman initially denied them entry, repeating the lie that Clara had left him. Suspicious, police soon returned and searched the home, finding the bodies in the garage.
Forman was charged with the first-degree murder of his two children and the second-degree murder of his wife.
He originally pleaded not guilty when the trial began last week, apparently believing his self-described acute alcoholism would offer him a defence. But he changed his plea to guilty on all three charges just three days after the trial began.
In murdering his own children, Forman demonstrated the “most egregious breach of trust imaginable,” Kaay said. “Mr. Forman killed his daughters in their own bedroom, which should be a place of safety.”
Forman’s assertion that he killed his wife in a fit of anger, and then murdered his children because he didn’t want them to grow up knowing he was a murderer, “can only be described as narcissistic and selfish to a degree which defies comprehension,” Kaay said. “He killed his children in a callous, cowardly manner.”
Consecutive sentences for multiple killings are rare, but Kaay said they were warranted in this case because Forman’s murder of his children hours after he killed his wife constituted “distinct acts,” Kaay said. The girls’ deaths, Kaay said, were separate from their mother’s murder in terms of their time, mode and motivation.
Defence lawyer Raymond Dieno had argued for all three sentences to run concurrently, which meant Forman would have spent a minimum of 25 years in prison before parole eligibility.
“This was one incident over time,” Dieno said of the multiple killings. “They are inextricably linked events.”
Dieno said the murders were related to Forman suffering from the “terrible effects” of withdrawal after a long period of alcohol abuse.
“This person still doesn’t really understand how he could possibly have done this,” Dieno said. “He (Forman) is not Clifford Olson; he’s not a monster.”