By: Shannon Clarke
Feature image via The Canadian Press.
When she turns 20 in January, Melissa Todorovic will be transferred to a prison for adult offenders, despite pleas from her lawyer that she serve out another year of her life sentence in youth prison.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer denied the request on Dec. 22, and Todorovic will be moved to the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont. as scheduled.
In 2009, Todorovic was sentenced to life in prison with seven years parole ineligibility for planning the murder of 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel.
The two had never met, but Todorivic was “obsessively” jealous of the Grade 9 student, and saw her as a romantic rival. Todorovic, 15 at the time of the murder, pressured her then 17-year-old boyfriend David Bagshaw into killing her.
The story made headlines across the country and Todorovic, known only as M.T. until her 16th birthday, was given an adult sentence for Rengel’s death.
At her July 2009 sentencing, defence lawyer Marshall Sack argued that Todorovic was not as responsible for the murder – she didn’t stab the girl and leave her in the snow to die. However, Todorivic inundated her boyfriend for eight months with text messages and online conversations, urging him to kill Rengel. She even threatened to withhold sex.
“The puppet master is not less blameworthy than the puppet,” Nordheimer said at the time, describing Todorovic as “relentless” in her goal. He said she had a “capacity for manipulation” and “lack of empathy” and sentenced her to the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre in Brampton, Ont.
On Dec. 22, her lawyer, Brian Snell, said that the teenager Nordheimer described in court two and a half years ago is not the same young woman behind bars today. Since receiving her sentence, Todorovic has graduated high school with straight A’s.
Vanessa Thibideau, who oversees Todorovic in Brampton, testified that she is an exemplary inmate and hard worker, participating in programs and even starting new ones.
She’s also taking a biology course at Athabasca University in Alberta by correspondence, something she will be unable to do in Kitchener, as she won’t have access to a computer or other equipment required to complete her course.
Both Nordheimer and the Crown were unmoved by these facts. Nordheimer noted that she hasn’t taken any initiative to correct her “frightening character flaw.” It was also suggested that Todorovic’s model behavior was an act, one for which she was apt, having always been a good student and hard worker.
Stefanie’s mother Patricia Hung and father Adolfo Rengel were in court this week, along with Rengel’s brother 16-year-old Ian and family and friends.
Todorovic’s mother Rachel and father Zoran were also present when Nordheimer denied their daughter’s request to remain at Roy McMurtry Youth Centre.
Todorovic, just shy of her 20th birthday, is considered one of Canada’s most notorious young female killers.