THE grief-stricken parents of Andrew
Moffitt left the Ottawa courthouse in tears yesterday after watching
their son's killer get five years in prison for manslaughter.
"I'm speechless," said the victim's mother, Paulette Moffitt of Brockville, who'd been hoping for a sentence twice as long.
It's been more than four years since her son, a
23-year-old University of Ottawa computer engineering student, was
knifed in the heart while trying to restrain a violent patron at a
Sandy Hill bar.
The patron, Henry Danninger, 30, was originally charged with
second-degree murder, but pleaded guilty last November to manslaughter.
After passing sentence, the judge assured the victim's family
-- who've been left devastated by Moffitt's death -- that they were
foremost in his thoughts during his deliberations.
"No sentence I could give out would breathe life in Andy," Ontario Superior Court Justice Roydon Kealey said.
He gently urged the family -- which also includes the victim's
father, Rodney, and two brothers, Rodney Jr., 31, and Michael, 16 -- to
carry on with their lives, just as the victim would likely have wanted
them to do.
"The case is done. It's over. It is my hope and prayer that you are given the grace to put closure in your lives," Kealey said.
Danninger was given the usual double credit for time spent in
pre-trial custody, along with consideration for the strict conditions
he was forced to follow while on bail. As a result, his eight- to
nine-year sentence was reduced to five years.
Danninger will be eligible to apply for parole in a little
less than two years, said his lawyer, Susan Mulligan, who called the
sentence "appropriate and fair."
Danninger had been studying at the University of Ottawa
before dropping out in 1998. He had no criminal record or history of
violence before the stabbing.
"In the past four years, I have thought of the premature and
violent death of Andy each and every day," Danninger said yesterday in
court while apologizing to the victim's family.
By coincidence, he and Moffitt had gone to the same Brockville high school. They didn't know each other.
Also by coincidence, they crossed paths at Coyotes Bar on
Somerset St. E. on Dec. 23, 1998. Moffitt was there to celebrate the
end of exams while Danninger, a marijuana dealer, was there to confront
a roommate he suspected of swiping some of his supply.
Moffitt jumped in to restrain Danninger after he went wild
and assaulted the roommate and another patron. During the skirmish,
Danninger stabbed Moffitt with a knife.
"I hope for the remainder of his life that he thinks about
what he did to Andy," Paulette Moffitt said before walking away from
the courthouse one final time.
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