Jerry Constant never knew Karina Wolfe’s name when he picked her up in 2010, brought her back to his home, and then strangled her.
He would later learn her identity from posters and media reports spearheaded by Wolfe’s mother Carol, who spent years organizing walks, fundraisers and search parties in efforts to find her only daughter.
Those posters and media reports contributed to a gnawing sense of guilt in Constant, which was further amplified by an addiction to crystal meth. In November 2015, Constant showed up at Saskatoon police headquarters in a drug-induced state of psychosis and confessed to killing Wolfe. He would later lead police to her remains.
Those details emerged in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench Friday, after Constant, 34, pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a body.
Court learned Wolfe, 20, had plans to get out of the sex trade and return home to her family. But she never got a chance to see those plans through before encountering Constant, who picked her up after having a fight with his girlfriend.
In his rambling confession, Constant never gave investigators much indication as to why he murdered Wolfe. Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga said Constant told police he suddenly got angry when they got to his home and then killed her.
Court heard Constant got rid of Wolfe’s clothes and cleaned her body in an effort to destroy evidence. He then wrapped Wolfe’s body in garbage bags and dumped her remains in a marshy area northwest of Saskatoon.
Carol, who communicates using sign language, had an interpreter help her read out a victim impact statement.
“You killed my daughter and then left her like garbage. Garbage you threw in a ditch,” she said, adding: “She wasn’t garbage.”
Carol went on to describe the five-and-a-half years spent not knowing where her daughter was. She told court she spent much of that time praying for Wolfe to come walking through the door. At other times, she worried someone might be hurting her. She described living with anxiety and panic attacks ever since Wolfe disappeared.
“Maybe Karina didn’t mean anything to you, but to our family, she was everything,” she said to Constant, who sat looking straight ahead in the prisoner’s box, with his hands folded in his lap.
Judge delivers sentencing decision
In Canada, a conviction for second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence. Justice Gerald Albright stressed to the people in the gallery that this meant that even if an offender is eventually paroled, they remain under supervision for the rest of their lives. He noted parole is not automatically granted. While some offenders do earn the right to leave prison, Albright said others never set foot outside again.
For second-degree murder, the longest an offender can be made to wait before they can apply for parole is 25 years. The minimum is 10 years.
Miazga asked Albright to set the parole ineligibility period at 15 years.
Along with the horrific nature of Constant’s crime, Miazga listed his extensive criminal record as an aggravating factor. Miazga noted Constant had 26 previous convictions, with seven of them for violent offences. He read excerpts from various reports made during Constant’s previous brushes with the law. Those showed Constant had a history of acting out violently and sexually, and of blaming victims who wouldn’t have sex with him.
Miazga said he would normally have looked for a much longer parole ineligibility period, but was giving Constant credit for confessing and pleading guilty.
He said that by the time Constant made his confession at the police station, the Karina Wolfe missing persons case had gone cold. Police didn’t have Constant on their list of suspects. Miazga said it actually took police some time to figure out who Constant was confessing to killing due to his drug-addled state. He said it was unlikely the case would ever have been solved without Constant’s spontaneous confession.
Constant’s lawyer asked for a parole ineligibility period of between 10 and 12 years. She noted that Constant had a history of being abused as a child and that he struggled with addiction to crystal meth. She said Constant was genuinely remorseful, and that his confession ought to weigh in his favour. She noted that he pleaded guilty specifically to save Wolfe’s family the pain of going through a trial.
Albright sentenced Constant to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 14 years. He noted that without Constant’s confession and guilty plea, he would have imposed a stiffer sentence. He gave Constant the five-year maximum for the charge of offering an indignity to a body, with that time to be served concurrently to the murder sentence.
Speaking again through an interpreter outside the courthouse, Carol thanked police, victims’ services and family and friends for their support. She also thanked the public for not letting Wolfe’s case be forgotten. She ended with a reminder that many other families are still living with the horror of a missing loved one.
“We need to be supportive to everybody that’s out there. We need to provide support for the murdered and missing women that are out there,” she said.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Kimberly Johnson said the Wolfe case was yet another reminder of the vulnerable position of aboriginal women in Canadian society.
“It’s just another reality. It shows that this is not something that’s just ‘out there.’ It’s here, in our home community,” she said.
In the end, Jonathan said Carol’s persistence was the reason years of not knowing what happened to her daughter finally came to an end.
“If she gave up, who knows if (Constant) would have plead guilty? Who knows if he would have come forward? I truly believe that Carol solved this case, that Carol brought her daughter home,” she said.
Jonathan directed people to a gofundme page dedicated to raising funds for a memorial to Wolfe in Carol’s home community of Muskeg Lake.