“Worst offender” Wentworth sentenced for barbaric crimes

Michael Wentworth, shackled, is led from Kingston’s Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Court Street on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Michael Wentworth will likely die in jail.

The 69-year-old multiple murderer was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 25 years on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, by Justice Laurie Lacelle of the Superior Court of Justice, who said, “You are not a young man, sir, and you may never be free again. This sentence reflects the astounding amount of harm and devastation that you have caused.”

Lacelle found Michael Wentworth, a.k.a. Michael Verney, guilty of robbery (but not the original charge of manslaughter) of Henrietta Knight in 1995, the robbery of a TD bank in Kingston in 1995, the first-degree murder of Richard Kimball in 1995, arson related to the detonation of a pipe bomb in a Toronto neighbourhood in 2000, and the first-degree murder of Stephen St. Denis in 2001.

Wentworth and his counsel agreed to proceed directly to sentencing due to the automatic nature of the sentence; in Canada, a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years is automatic in a finding of first-degree murder. Though the sentences will not be served consecutively because of a May 2022 Supreme Court decision that forbids consecutive sentencing beyond that maximum, Wentworth will not even be eligible for parole until he is 95.

In addition to the two life sentences, Lacelle imposed 12 years for the robbery of Henrietta Knight, 10 years for the TD Bank robbery, and 10 years for arson by the bombing of a vehicle. Wentworth’s DNA will also be collected and entered into the national database, and he is prohibited from contacting a long list of witnesses and their families.

In his submission to the court on sentencing possibilities, Crown Attorney Fraser Kelly reminded the court of Wentworth’s lengthy criminal record: “Convicted of 38 offences, sentenced on 20 different dates, and jailed 14 times. Sent to the penitentiary four times…” he listed. “Obviously a disturbing record.”

“The accused’s criminal record speaks of the worst offender: 47 years, a lifetime of crime,” Kelly added later in his statement, “and yet he had options. He is a plumber. There are so many people within our community who would love to have that skill and would use that skill productively. Not the accused: crime was the preferable route for him.”

Later, seemingly unaware of the irony, defence attorney John Kaldas told the press that Wentworth was taking his sentence “professionally.”

Photos of the alleged victims of Michael Wentworth (a.k.a. Michael Verney) displayed at a joint OPP and Kingston Police press conference on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Wentworth was charged and appeared in court the same day. Photo by Cris Vilela.

Kaldas said personally he was “surprised by the verdict. I saw the evidence differently than the prosecution and the judge… There was reasonable doubt on all counts.”

A large piece of the defence’s case rested on the assertion that Wentworth was just a petty criminal who told stories of other people’s crimes to variously impress his friends and the undercover police who ensnared him erroneously in a Mr. Big sting operation.  

Lacelle shredded this assertion, saying, “There is no doubt that Michael Wentworth is a storyteller. For the better part of nine months he recounted many stories to… the (police agent) and the (undercover police). Some of those stories involved the offences charged. His tone throughout his recounting of these events, with the exception of the offence involving Henrietta Knight, was often boastful. And other times he seemed to go out of his way to make his account entertaining. As I have remarked before, this does not mean that what he was saying was not true.”

The judge’s voice audibly shook — whether from emotion or strain — when she addressed Wentworth about his assault on Knight. “Your assaults on Henrietta Knight were horrific. It is hard to imagine how you could… so badly harm a 92-year-old woman. It is the kind of offence that strikes terror in the hearts of vulnerable people living alone.”

Lacelle stated that brazenly driving a vehicle through a window of the TD bank left trauma among the employees that lingered to this day: “It is indeed just a matter of chance that nobody was hurt.” She also said that the bombing of a vehicle in a crowded Toronto neighborhood “risked incredible harm to human life; it was an outrageous offence. That no one was injured is just a matter of luck.”

And finally, she admonished, “Your killing of Richard Kimball and Stephen St. Denis shows a chilling disregard for human life. [They] were men with families who cared about them, even through their difficulties. They were human beings. They were your friends. It’s astonishing to have to say that you are not entitled to take their lives.”

“The evidence in this trial alone, quite apart from your considerable criminal record, is overwhelming that you are a danger to the community,” Lacelle said. “This sentence, which will likely see you in prison for the rest of your life, is proportionate to the very great and intentional harm you have repeatedly caused. This sentence is required to separate you from the community — and definitely, it is fit and it is just.”

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