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Judge denies Todorovic's plea to stay in youth prison Add to ...

In the four years since she convinced her boyfriend to stab a 14-year-old girl to death, Melissa Todorovic has been a well-behaved prisoner. At Roy McMurtry Youth Centre in Brampton, she has earned a reputation among staff as a pleasant presence, ready to help out with chores and tutor fellow inmates. A straight-A student, Ms. Todorovic earned a high school diploma behind bars and started taking courses towards an undergraduate degree in biology.

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But through it all, prosecutors say, she hasn’t confronted the ghastly crime she was convicted of masterminding nor whatever psychological trait pushed her to it.

This lack of progress prompted a judge Thursday to deny Ms. Todorovic’s application to remain in a youth prison. She will be transferred to the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener on Jan. 7, her 20th birthday.

“It is not evident that the rehabilitation has even begun, let alone concluded,” Mr. Justice Ian Nordheimer said in handing down his decision. “The apparent risk remains.”

Ms. Todorovic was convicted of first-degree murder more than two years ago in the death of Stefanie Rengel. The two girls had never met, but Ms. Todorovic regarded Ms. Rengel as a rival. Over the course of several months and numerous online chats, Ms. Todorovic cajoled David Bagshaw to commit the crime, threatening to break up with him if he didn’t do it. Mr. Bagshaw killed Ms. Rengel outside her east Toronto home on the first day of 2008.

Both Ms. Todorovic and Mr. Bagshaw were youths at the time – aged 15 and 17, respectively – but were sentenced as adults. She is appealing her conviction.

Ms. Todorovic displayed the composure often ascribed to her as she sat in court Thursday, dressed in a pink hooded sweatshirt, brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, staring straight ahead.

Her lawyers argued that she must stay in youth prison to take a biology course that requires lab equipment and the use of a computer, neither of which she can access at Grand Valley. They also presented Vanessa Thibideau, who oversees her case at Roy McMurtry, who spoke in glowing terms about her personality and work ethic.

“Melissa has always been what would appear in great moods. She has always been one to take part in anything that’s happening,” Ms. Thibideau said. “I’ve seen her get involved with other youth who aren’t in the best of spirits. She lifts them up.”

Crown attorney Robin Flumerfelt said such things are irrelevant. At the time of Ms. Rengel’s death, he argued, Ms. Todorovic was a successful student and a “model” daughter, but nonetheless orchestrated a murder. She has refused psychiatric treatment to discover why she committed the crime, he said.

“There’s no reason to suspect she is any less dangerous now than she was four years ago,” he said. “She asks to be left, at age 20 and beyond, untreated, with a group of impressionable teens who are working on their own issues.”

Judge Nordheimer agreed. The fact that she cannot take a biology course is unfortunate, he said, but it is a consequence of being incarcerated.

“She will not become accustomed to dealing with people as an adult if she continues in an environment surrounded by people younger than herself,” he concluded.

Several members of Ms. Rengel’s family attended the hearing, filling up three rows in the public gallery. Ms. Todorovic’s parents were there, too, in the front corner.

As she was led away in handcuffs, to be returned to the youth prison she must leave in less then three weeks, Ms. Todorovic turned her face away.

 

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