An Edmonton man who admitted strangling a Montreal woman in his north-side basement apartment four years ago has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter.
Gregory Tessman had originally been charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 31, 2017 death of Valerie Maurice, 29, who was visiting Edmonton to work as an escort.
Tessman has been in custody since he was arrested in Vancouver on Sept. 5, 2017.
With credit for time served and harsh remand conditions due to COVID, he has 3½ years remaining on his sentence.
According to an agreed statement of facts entered as a court exhibit earlier this year, Tessman contacted Maurice “in her capacity as an escort.”
Maurice’s friend and driver dropped her off at Tessman’s apartment building around midnight and she told him to pick her up in a couple of hours.
When Tessman and Maurice were sitting on his living room couch, he told her he didn’t have money to pay for her services and she tried to leave.
He physically tried to stop her and they got into an argument that led to Maurice screaming.
Tessman covered her mouth. Then as the fight continued, he put his hands around her neck and strangled her. Maurice lost consciousness and went quiet.
Tessman and his female roommate dragged the body into the bedroom. They tied her hands and legs, stuffed clothing into her mouth and tried to conceal Maurice by piling more clothing over her face and body.
At some point, Maurice succumbed to her injuries and died.
Tessman and his roommate took a Greyhound bus to Vancouver. Tessman was arrested there five days later.
In a victim impact statement, Maurice’s aunt said she is haunted by the last terrifying moments of her daughter’s life.
“I see her stuffed under clothing, with a sock in her mouth, her hands tied and badly bruised,” Syvie Bergeron told the court. “I fear what will happen once you’re released. How will you act in the future if you lose control?
“Will there be a next victim?”
Bergeron said she had to identify Maurice using photos sent to her by Edmonton police.
“I can’t even get it through my mind that a human is capable of such actions,” the victim’s father, Michael Maurice, wrote in his impact statement.
‘Discouraged, despondent, depressed and anxious’
The Crown and defence made a joint submission, asking Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma to impose a 10-year sentence.
Prosecutor John Watson noted that the victim was a vulnerable member of society in a type of work that attracted violence. He cited Maurice’s prolonged suffering, and Tessman’s efforts to cover up the victim and flee the scene, as mitigating factors.
Watson said the key mitigating factor was Tessman’s guilty plea, which was entered in May during his trial.
Defence lawyer Kathryn Quinlan told the judge that Tessman has a borderline IQ, cognitive capacity issues and longstanding difficulties with his mental health.
She urged the judge to give Tessman extra credit for the time he’s served in custody.
“He’s been discouraged, despondent, depressed and anxious,” Quinlan said.
She noted that Tessman suffered a broken hip in his cell at the Edmonton Remand Centre in June when he slipped on some water and was not taken to hospital until three days later.
“He laid on the floor of his cell until he was discovered soaked in his own urine and finally taken to hospital,” Quinlan said.
Sulyma didn’t find that Tessman’s charter rights had been breached while he was in custody, but reduced his sentence by six months due to living conditions at the remand centre during the pandemic.