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Amanda Jane Kelly. Picture: Nat Ogilvie

As a little girl, she had such a big laugh her sisters nicknamed her "Foghorn".

Growing up in WA's remote north, Amanda Jane Kelly's younger years were, to the outside world at least, largely unremarkable.

Her elder sister, Alycia Kelly, talked of a funny and sweet girl, a caring young woman who returned home in recent years to care for their sick mother.

Murder crushes expectant mum

Her best friend through high school years, Nat Ogilvie, described the girl she sometimes affectionately called "Manda Panda" as fun, bright and happy.

The teenagers were not into sport and, like so many others their age, spent their spare time just "hanging out" in the small town of Tom Price as they worked their way to Year 12 graduation.

But simmering beneath her seemingly happy surface, Kelly was a troubled girl who struggled with anxiety, a problematic relationship with her mother and mental health issues.

Apparently unbeknown to others, Kelly was using drugs by the age of 12 and a year later had begun self-harming by cutting herself. Her insecurity also manifested in her pulling out her hair and picking at her lips.

She was described as awkward and isolated socially as a child who struggled to make friends.

Ms Ogilvie recalled going to medical appointments with Kelly at about the age of 16, her friend asking a doctor why she just felt so sad all the time.

Alycia said by 19, her little sister had "lost her way". Her dysfunctional background, her mental health problems and the spiralling and compounding effects of drug and alcohol abuse had combined to create a "damaged" teenager.

Early last year, a vulnerable Kelly had a chance encounter with a man on a train in Perth, having moved to the city for treatment at the Alma Street clinic.

Meeting Jonathan Robert Lee would have irreversible and unimaginable consequences.

As her sister looked back - unfortunately to a time when she had taken over caring for their mother and was also raising her own young family - there was a palpable sense of remorse she did not realise something was amiss.

Kelly and Lee's romance was whirlwind and destructive.

Within two months of falling for the man she described to her sister as her first proper love, Kelly moved in with Lee.

The pair spent almost every waking minute together. Lee was a violent man, but it is not clear whether Kelly was aware of his record of armed robberies.

With her own history of heavy alcohol use - something her sister in part attributes to the drinking culture of the north and readily acknowledges it does not work well in their family - Kelly was on a path to destruction.

When she met Lee, Kelly had no criminal record. She had been busted for a stealing offence, but it was so minor she was fined $100 and granted a spent conviction.

But on May 12 last year, she graduated from a cleanskin to a murderer.

Kelly and Lee went to Samuel Jacob Walker's house in South Fremantle to buy cannabis but the trio ended up injecting methamphetamine.

Kelly was keeping pace with her boyfriend, a seasoned drug user, and had never before taken so much speed.

Walker, a stranger to Kelly before that day, twice referred to killing David John Houston, another man who had returned to the house with him that evening.

Kelly believed he was joking.

After going into the shower to have sex with Lee, Kelly sent him to have a look when she heard Mr Houston's screams for help.

The teenager was called to the kitchen, where standing dripping wet and naked, she was confronted with the bloody scene of Walker strangling Mr Houston with a shoelace.

Walker instructed her to help him and for up to 30 seconds, Kelly aided by putting weight around his waist which allowed him to keep the pressure on their victim's neck.

Kelly told the men to put Mr Houston out of his misery and was so overcome by the horror of what had occurred, she ran to the shower and vomited.

But Lee ferociously joined the attack, kicking Mr Houston with such force that one of his eyes bulged from its socket.

The crime was such a brutal example of gratuitous violence, Lee and Walker had the minimum time they will spend behind bars increased from 12 to 21 years after an appeal by State prosecutors.

Kelly, whose physical role was acknowledged not to have caused Mr Houston's death, was accepted to have played a significantly lesser role.

But for 20 to 30 seconds, she took part in the murder by aiding Walker rather than fleeing the scene for assistance.

This week, Supreme Court Justice Michael Corboy recognised Kelly's psychological problems, substance abuse and dysfunctional family life, but ruled she would not be spared a life sentence after failing to step away from the "gross violence" inflicted on Mr Houston.

Kelly's diagnosis includes borderline personality disorder, which can lead to irrational deep attachments to people, depression and possible symptoms of schizophrenia.

Alycia said that after being admitted to the Frankland Centre and heavily sedated after her arrest, her sister finally appeared to be getting the right medication in prison.

Kelly faces a minimum of 14 years in Bandyup. She and Alycia have taken up crocheting and work on their needles during phone conversations.

Sometimes Kelly cries and other times she wonders whether her crime will deprive her of the chance to have children of her own, but she also talks of plans to study and has turned to God to cope.

"I know she prays for Mr Houston every day," Alycia said. "She regrets the night and what happened and that David won't be with his family."