City man convicted of shooting ex-girlfriend
Woman’s body was set on fire in car
Jolin Thompson’s smile was ear-to-ear Wednesday as the man who shot and burned her sister seven years ago was convicted of firstdegree murder.
Shernell Sharon Pierre was fatally shot in March 2008 and her body burned inside her Toyota on the shoulder of a busy west-end street. Within 24 hours, her ex-boyfriend Devon Hugh Saunders was a suspect. Now, he will serve a life sentence for first-degree murder.
“Justice has been served,” Thompson said outside court. “I have a God that never fails me.”
In the prisoner’s box, the 46-yearold Saunders appeared shocked as he buried his face in his hands. The case against him was circumstantial. There were no eyewitnesses to put him inside Pierre’s car, no DNA evidence, no confession.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman had no doubt Saunders killed the woman he claimed he loved. “The circumstantial evidence leads to the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Saunders committed murder and ended Ms. Pierre’s life,” he said.
Pierre, 26, was killed after leaving her shift at the Misericordia Hospital in west Edmonton the night of March 12, 2008. Crown prosecutors Neil Wiberg and Suvidha Kalra proved Saunders was waiting for her in the parking lot.
Months before, Pierre ended her year-long relationship with Saunders. In early 2008, while visiting her hometown on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, she began a new relationship that continued upon her return to Edmonton. Friends said she was happy.
Saunders was not. Court heard he was upset the relationship was over and jealous Pierre was now with another man. Friends testified that he threatened to kill her.
“He tragically decided that if he could not have Shernell Pierre, that no one could,” Kalra said.
Minutes after the ex-couple left the hospital parking lot, Saunders shot Pierre in the head, poured a water bottle of gasoline inside the car, then lit the vehicle on fire with pages torn from Pierre’s Bible, Kalra said in closing arguments.
In a victim impact statement, Thompson said she felt “blank and numb” after her sister’s death. “Could this beautiful young lady, my sister, really be gone? My sister truly is gone. No more of her silly jokes, no more braiding her hair.”
In police interviews, Saunders denied killing Pierre. “I’ll tell you, time and time again, Shernell is a nice girl. Why would I hurt her? What would that accomplish?”
Sanderman found that Saunders walked to West Edmonton Mall after Pierre’s death and threw a piece of clothing in a garbage can.
The next day, police witnesses said, investigators put Saunders under surveillance and watched him drive more than 10 kilometres to throw a single glove into a garbage bin. That glove had gunshot residue on it.
A life sentence without any chance of parole for 25 years is automatic after a first-degree murder conviction.