Jay Handel, a stocky former fish farm worker given to towering rages, was found guilty Wednesday night of the first-degree murder of all six of his young children.
He was sentenced to six life terms, with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
"What you did was a terrible thing," Mr. Justice James Taylor told Mr. Handel. "Without good reason you took the lives of six young defenceless people and you will live with that for the rest of your life."
The jury accepted the Crown's theory that Mr. Handel killed his children as part of a multipronged plan to punish his wife, Sonya. She had been talking about leaving him and was developing a fondness for a young, single father in the isolated north Vancouver Island community of Quatsino.
Mr. Handel admitted killing the children, but pleaded not guilty on the ground that he was suffering from a mental disorder.
As the verdicts were read, he stared at the floor and showed no visible emotion. The court was cleared, and when Mr. Handel re-entered for sentencing, he walked slowly, in a trance-like manner, to the prisoner's box.
The jury had deliberated for slightly more than a day.
As the first guilty verdict was announced, Sonya Handel's older sister, who declined to give her name, buried her face in her hand and gasped loudly, "Yes."
Mr. Handel, 46, admitted that after killing the children, he set the family home ablaze in the early morning of March 11, 2002.
Defence lawyer John Green gave a brief statement on behalf of his client, who did not speak.
Mr. Green said Mr. Handel wanted people to know that "he loved his children and he never lost that love. He is glad at least this ordeal is finally over."
The judge agreed with a recommendation from Mr. Green that Mr. Handel is in need of psychiatric treatment. He said he will recommend to corrections officials that they place Mr. Handel in an institution where he can receive "Whatever psychiatric care [he]needs."
Afterward, Mr. Handel walked towards the exist in a wobbly manner, escorted by two sheriffs.
Prosecutor Darrill Prevett said outside the courthouse the Crown was very gratified by the verdict. "From our perspective, justice was done. . . . It's a sad case. Every time we opened a file on this case we always remembered the six children. We can't bring them back. But we did do what we could here."
Early in the trial, the court heard that Mr. Handel killed Sebastian, 11; Roxanne, 9; Martial, 7; Moriah, 6; Levi, 5, and Lydia, 2 less than 24 hours after a bitter fight with his wife over accusations of adultery.
Admissions by Mr. Handel and prosecution statements said the bodies of the children were burned almost beyond recognition in the fire their father set.
Mr. Handel testified that he recalled sitting down on a chair, alone, at the family home.
"I had no idea how long I was there," he said. "When I woke up, I was strangling Lydia . . . and then I was strangling Moriah. I shot Roxanne. I shot Levi . . . and I shot Sebastian . . . and I shot Martial."
According to the Crown's opening statement, all this happened after a confrontation between Mr. Handel and his wife outside the Quatsino school where a Sunday-morning church service had taken place. Ms. Handel had left home the night before, when her husband accused her of adultery, an accusation she denied.
Outside the school, Crown lawyer David Fitzsimmons said, Mr. Handel gave his wife an ultimatum: Come home on his terms or don't come home. She refused, the court was told.
At that point, Mr. Fitzsimmons continued, Mr. Handel held his wife's hands and said, "You are alone." Then he left.
The couple had been estranged for several months.
Days before the killing, the court heard, Mr. Handel broke into the home of the man he suspected of having an affair with his wife and threatened to kill him.
Ms. Handel, 33, first met her husband-to-be on Saltspring Island when she was 15 years old. He was 29, living with another woman and working as a bartender and mail-courier driver.
Two years later, they began sleeping together.
Ms. Handel said she didn't feel good about the relationship, breaking it off several times to date boys her own age, uncomfortable that Mr. Handel's partner didn't know about her.
Eventually, in 1990, with Sonya pregnant with their first child, Sebastian, the Handels married. Mr. Handel stayed with his long-time partner almost to the day of the wedding.
Ms. Handel told the court that she felt their marriage was bad from the beginning.
"He always had a raging-at-me thing he did," she said. "He couldn't seem to enjoy himself for very long."
Ms. Handel home-schooled the children, infusing them with doses of her strong Christian beliefs. Mr. Handel often criticized her for this, she said, and refused to let her say grace before dinner because he said he, not God, provided the food.
She agreed that Mr. Handel was an exceptional father. He doted on his children when he was home, and they returned his love. Ms. Handel said she never saw him lay a hand on them, nor did he ever strike her.
The weekend of the fire, Ms. Handel stayed with friends in Quatsino, while her husband looked after the children.
Mr. Handel came by to drive her home early Monday morning. When they arrived, the house and three outbuildings were already engulfed in flames.
As she shrieked hysterically at her husband, Mr. Handel tried to slit his throat, but did not seriously injure himself.
Several days later, police identified the charred remains of the children and Mr. Handel was charged with six counts of murder.