Bell-Wright ineligible for parole for 16 years
A Winnipeg man who received an automatic life sentence for a teen’s “brutal and inhumane” killing won’t be eligible for parole for 16 years, Justice Glenn Joyal ruled late Wednesday afternoon.
Nicholas Bell-Wright, 24, pleaded guilty to second degree murder in November for the 2016 death of 17-year-old Cooper Nemeth.
Nemeth’s body was found in a garbage can after he was shot twice in the head in Bell-Wright’s car after the two left a house party together in the Valley Gardens area on Feb. 14, 2016, to arrange a drug deal.
Gaylene Nemeth told reporters outside court she accepts the sentence given to her son’s killer.
“We got what we asked for, but it doesn’t bring my son back,” she said. “And that’s about all one can say.”
Nemeth’s father Brent said, “To me, it would never be enough, but in our country he got what he deserved.”
Joyal called it “a crime of callous brutality” and told court Bell-Wright’s decision to try and hide the crime while family, friends and volunteers searched seven days for Nemeth was an aggravating factor in coming to his decision on a sentence.
Gaylene fought tears as she read a victim impact statement, telling a packed courtroom her own thoughts have been "haunting and tormenting" since her son’s death.
"Every night's consumed of nightmares," she said.
Gaylene said when she thinks about her son she sees him as "a beautiful baby" but then starts to think about what happened in Bell-Wright’s car.
"Then I look down and there is my beautiful baby with a gun to his face," she said, adding "Walked to the gallows by someone claiming to be a friend."
"Mr. Bell-Wright gave Cooper a death sentence, my family a life sentence."
In an agreed statement of facts, court heard Nemeth and Bell-Wright became acquaintances who knew each other through the illegal drug trade.
Bell-Wright said he could help Nemeth set up a drug deal.
Court heard when they left a residence together and Nemeth was shot twice in the head while he was sitting in the front seat of Bell-Wright's car.
Bell-Wright dumped Nemeth’s body in a garbage can and tried to cover his tracks, but he was later arrested and charged with killing Nemeth.
Gaylene told court her son "clearly made some bad decisions" but that he was "at a tender age, experimenting and making mistakes."
"Cooper wasn't a gangster or a big time drug dealer. He was just a kid," she said. "Cooper was a boy. My baby. A 17-year-old excited for life."
"Mr. Bell-Wright killed my son. I don't believe for one minute he feels any remorse for what he's done to Cooper and my family."
Bell-Wright apologized in court saying, “Cooper had his whole life ahead of him and I had no right to take that away from him,” but Nemeth’s mother chose to stand in the hall while Bell-Wright spoke.
"I left the courtroom,” she said. “I don't want to hear it and I don't care."
In his victim impact statement, Nemeth’s father told court he remembers seeing his son for the last time at home on the night of Feb.14 after Cooper played a hockey game. Cooper told him he’d be home later that night but he never returned.
“Unbeknown to us he was already gone,” said Brent Nemeth. “I constantly think about his last few moments of life and the fear he may have had.”
“This murder has wrecked my family and so many innocent people and their family as well.”
Joyal accepted the Crown’s request for 16 years parole ineligibility while Bell-Wright’s lawyers were seeking a lighter sentence of 12 years before a chance of parole.
Crown attorney Mike Himmelman said Mr. Bell Wright’s efforts to hide the crime and mislead police “are highly aggravating.”
Himmelman told court Bell-Wright shot Nemeth with an illegal weapon he carried for intimidation purposes and to make “fast money” in the illegal drug trade.
“The fact the deceased was shot not once, but twice in the head we say adds to the moral culpability,” Himmelman told court.
Court heard Bell-Wright was on probation during Nemeth’s death in 2016 due to a previous assault conviction and has been faced sanctions while in custody for tampering with a cell door and insulting jail staff.