A man who fatally stabbed another resident at a Melbourne Salvation Army crisis home after he became angry over a bowl of spilt cereal has been jailed for manslaughter.
But his eight-year prison sentence has left the victim’s niece “incredibly upset”, as she had expected a murder trial.
Jesse Phan, 45, armed himself with a knife and a homemade “light sabre” before he stabbed Rodney Ballis in the stomach at the West Melbourne centre early in the morning in February 2018.
Shortly before the killing, Phan was in the kitchen eating cereal, along with Mr Ballis, who accidentally spilled some of his Corn Flakes and milk on the floor.
Phan, who is schizophrenic and had earlier taken “ice” and cannabis, became agitated and threw some of his own cereal at Mr Ballis as he cleaned the floor.
He left the kitchen and went to his room, arming himself with a knife and a homemade “light sabre”, which was a metal rod with a laser on it.
Phan then filmed himself as he roamed around the centre in a profanity-filled rant, which Supreme Court Justice Lesley Taylor recited.
“Today is the f****** happy day,” Justice Taylor said, quoting Phan.
“I’m going to kill this c***.”
Phan adopted a “pose reminiscent of a fencer” and confronted Mr Ballis, who “defended himself by executing roundhouse kicks.”
As they scuffled, Phan stabbed the 43-year-old once in the stomach and he died soon after.
“Your violent behaviour has resulted in the death of another man. For that you must be punished,” Justice Taylor said.
Phan was jailed for a minimum five-and-a-half years.
He could be eligible for parole in late 2023, having served nearly one year in custody awaiting sentence.
The victim’s niece, Katie Lange, felt “incredibly upset” following the sentence.
“The day Jesse took my uncle, he took my auntie and a part of my mum, and they have not been the same ever since,” she said.
She said her “lovely” uncle was a “happy man” who would “never hurt anyone”.
Phan was originally charged with murder but later pleaded guilty to the downgraded charge of manslaughter.
“We didn’t have a say,” Ms Lange said.
“It was out of our hands. But we can’t change it now.”
Justice Taylor accepted manslaughter was appropriate for the crime, which happened after Phan stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication.
“No punishment is capable of extinguishing the pain of (Mr Ballis’) loved ones,” the judge said.
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