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The Globe and Mail

Sisters who drowned mother must stay in prison

Two sisters serving decade-long murder sentences for drowning their mother in a bathtub after plying her with alcohol and powerful painkillers were denied an early release from prison yesterday.

While the judge said he was "impressed" by the sisters' rehabilitation progress, a conditional release only two years into their jail terms is simply "too much.

"I urge you to keep up the good work," said Mr. Justice Bruce Duncan of Ontario Superior Court, adding the sisters are free to make further applications after they've served more time.

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"The bottom line is, it's too soon."

The elder sister, now 21, had sought release to a youth-oriented halfway house. Her 20-year-old sibling wanted to live with their father at the same home where the murder took place on Jan. 18, 2003.

The sisters were 15 and 16 years old when they drowned their abusive, alcoholic mother in a tub after feeding her vodka and Tylenol-3 pills containing codeine.

Wearing matching green jackets, the sisters smiled as they were brought into the court and sat quietly as Judge Duncan read out his decision.

Judge Duncan said he was worried the pair weren't getting enough support and rehabilitation since being moved from a youth facility to the Grand Valley Institution for Women, near Kitchener.

"You're supposed to be treated as youth," he said. "I'm very concerned that those principles are not being met."

Robert Jagielski, lawyer for the younger sister, said the transfer last year occurred "without rhyme or reason" and that his client wants to join a support group and get proper counselling so she can integrate back into society.

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Last month, court heard the elder sister wants to study engineering at the University of Waterloo and that her younger sister had been approved to take a correspondence class from the University of Athabasca - paid for by the federal government.

The murder was originally ruled an accidental death, despite the fact the girls had bragged to classmates about the killing. The sisters also met with friends at a Jack Astor's restaurant after the death to establish an alibi and celebrate the successful killing.

Much of the prosecution's case focused on a series of Internet chats where the sisters laid out their plans to kill their 43-year-old mother.

Still, during hearings last month, the court was told the younger sister has difficulty recalling certain aspects of the murder and that she often deals with her emotions by sitting alone in her prison cell.

Their father told the court then that his younger daughter belonged at the family home, and that corrections staff made a big mistake when she was moved from the youth-centred Syl Apps facility to a federal penitentiary for women.

Though the sisters were given the maximum sentence for young offenders, Canadian law prohibits them from spending any more than six years in prison.

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