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Left to right: Roxanne, Sonya Handel (mother), Levi (on Sonya's lap), Sebastian (at rear) great-grandmother of the children (who refused to be id'd for health and safety reasons), Mariah (on great-grandmother's lap), father Jay Handel with Marshall on his lap. Undated family photo taken approx. two years ago, before their sixth child's -Ledia - birth. CREDIT: CTV NEWS

Sonya Handel, the mother of six young children who were murdered by their father in a remote community on Vancouver Island in 2002, has died, her former lawyer said yesterday. Carter Nagel said Ms. Handel passed away from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Ms. Handel's husband, Jay Handel, was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of the couple's children: Sebastien, 11; Roxanne, 9; Martial, 7; Moriah, 6; Levi, 5; and Lydia, 2. Mr. Handel, 45 at the time, killed the children, then burned down the family home with the children inside, to punish his wife, whom he erroneously believed was having an affair.

As the home burned in the small hamlet of Quatsino, on the northern tip of the Island, Mr. Handel drove his wife to the top of a hill overlooking their property to show her what he had done. Ms. Handel, who had talked of leaving her husband, had stayed that weekend with a friend.

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The killing of the six children, universally described as beautiful and well-behaved, was one of the worst crimes in the province's history. The pointless slaughter stunned the country.

Ms. Handel, 39, never talked publicly about the tragedy, other than her dramatic testimony in court against her husband and a brief statement encouraging people to support shelters for women and children and thanking them for their prayers.

The couple first met when she was 15 and Mr. Handel, 29. They married in 1990.

Mr. Handel was sentenced in 2003 to life imprisonment with no opportunity for parole for 25 years.

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