The suffering that Shakeil Boothe endured in the months before his death is "almost unthinkable," an Ontario Superior Court judge said Thursday in handing the 10-year-old boy's father and stepmother life sentences.
Garfield Boothe will be ineligible for parole for 18 years, though he can apply for a reduction after 15. His wife Nichelle Boothe-Rowe has no chance of parole for 13 years.
The pair was convicted of second-degree murder in April by a Brampton, Ont., jury after 14 hours of deliberation.
In his decision, Justice Fletcher Dawson said he found Boothe was "more involved in the events leading to Shakeil's death" than Boothe-Rowe, though it is "perfectly clear" she was "complicit."
"I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Garfield Boothe perpetrated the final assault," he said.
"Garfield was the primary disciplinarian. He has admitted to repeated and brutal whippings of Shakeil. ... Anyone who would repeatedly whip a 10-year-old boy with a belt to the point where blood was drawn and spattered about would certainly be inclined towards other forms of physical violence against the child."
Shakeil — who came from Jamaica to live with his father in 2009 — was regularly beaten, deprived of food and chained to his bed in the months before he was found dead in his bed in 2011.
Jurors were told he died "minutes to hours" after a savage beating that left him with a black eye, bruised head, re-fractured rib and internal bleeding.
The issue of who delivered that final beating was a sticking point at trial, with each of the accused pointing the finger at the other.
However, the pathologist who examined Shakeil's body found that while the attack triggered the boy's death, he was already in a downward spiral due to malnutrition and a severe infection that saw pus forming in his lungs.
It's unclear why the abuse began, Fletcher said in his ruling.
"What I find remarkable here is that when Shakeil originally came to Canada, things started out more or less normally. It also appears that Garfield was genuinely concerned about Shakeil and the problems he was having at school," the judge said.
"For some reason which is difficult to discern, he began to severely abuse Shakeil to the point of torture. He was a 230-pound man. Shakeil was a 65-pound defenceless boy."
Shakeil's step-grandmother Claudette Boodth held back tears as she remembered the "smart boy" who wanted to be a scientist when he grew up.
"That was taken away from him, unfortunately," she said outside the courthouse after the sentencing.
"And if it's one message that I can send out there — child abuse is everywhere, closer than you think. I am a nurse and when I suspected it, I tried. But unfortunately, it was too late," she said.
"If I had called the authorities earlier — and this is the thing that has haunted me — would it have made a difference?"
The guilty verdict had carried a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole for 10 to 25 years, but the exact length of the parole prohibition was what was to be determined today.