Ontario man sentenced to 3½ years in historic Edmonton rape case

An Ontario man has been sentenced in an Edmonton rape case that dates back to 1981.  (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
An Ontario man has been sentenced in an Edmonton rape case that dates back to 1981. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains descriptions of sexual violence.

A nearly 80-year-old woman, who was raped and robbed in an Edmonton parkade more than four decades ago, is relieved her attacker has finally been sentenced.

On Friday, Court of King's Bench Justice Paul Belzil sentenced John Beausoleil, 70, to three years for the rape conviction and six months for robbery, in connection to the attack in 1981.

"I'm glad it's over, and I'm glad he's paying for what he did," the woman, whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, told reporters after Friday's sentencing hearing.

Beausoleil was charged and tried under the 1981 Criminal Code, which still included rape as an offence. It was later replaced by sexual assault.

The man from Orillia, Ont., was convicted of rape and robbery following a trial last year, that hinged on DNA evidence investigators used to connect him to the decades-old case.

During the trial, court heard the woman was attacked by a man she didn't know in her condo building's underground parkade on the night of Sept. 17, 1981.

The woman testified that she was raped and that the man then stole her purse. She sought help from a neighbour, who called police.

The case remained unsolved for decades, but Edmonton Police Service investigators decided to take another look in 2018.

Cuttings from the dress the woman had been wearing during the attack, which were stained with semen, turned up a positive DNA match with Beausoleil in 2019. His DNA had been added to a police database based on a judge's order in the intervening years.

On Friday, court heard that Beausoleil has a previous conviction for a 2001 sexual assault.

Lasting impact on victim

During the sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart read a victim impact statement written by the woman, who said Beausoleil's crimes have had a lifelong impact on her.

In the months following the attack, she only left her house for work. She went from being positive and outgoing to introverted and afraid, she said in her statement.

"I felt dirty and ashamed of what had happened to me," she said in her statement.

Her daughter, who was 17 in 1981, also filed a victim impact statement, in which she said the attack robbed her of carefree teenage years because she had to spend so much time reassuring her mother — and wondering if every man they encountered was the rapist.

"The independent, strong, fun, happy-go-lucky mom that I once had was gone," the daughter said in her statement.

Stewart argued for an eight-year sentence — seven for the rape conviction and one year for robbery — but Court of King's Bench Justice Paul Belzil ultimately decided on a penalty closer to the three-year term submitted by defence lawyer Brian Beresh.

There were multiple other aggravating factors, in addition to the terrible and lasting effect on the woman, Stewart argued. He listed the woman's vulnerability while alone in a parkade, the broken finger she suffered during the attack, that Beausoleil had told the woman he had a knife and that he didn't use a condom.

Stewart also argued the attack was planned and deliberate.

Beresh contested several of the aggravating factors, and argued that Belzil should consider that, aside from a a sexual assault conviction in 2001, Beausoleil has lived a productive and positive life, and is respected and loved by his family and friends.

He also pointed to a psychological report that found Beausoleil is low risk to re-offend. He added that Beausoleil is in poor health, dealing with several medical conditions.

Belzil said, while explaining his sentencing decision, that the Beausoleil in the courtroom Friday was not the same man who committed the attack in 1981. The judge also found Beausoleil is not a threat to re-offend.

Addressing the woman directly, Belzil acknowledged that the attack would have been absolutely terrifying, that there's no sentence he can impose that would make that go away.

"I do hope that you obtain some measure of closure this morning," the judge said.

In addition to prison, Beausoleil was ordered to supply a DNA sample and he will be added to a registry of sex offenders. He will also be under a weapons prohibition upon his release.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this  Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.