London courts: Videos show senseless brutality of killing

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Jesse James’ mother’s grief runs so deep, she has “no joy in (her) life anymore.”

“Jesse’s death has turned me into an angry, moody, bitter woman. I’ve had to glue my shattered heart back together and learn to live without him,” Sherry Belanger wrote in a victim impact statement read in court by assistant Crown attorney Meredith Gardiner Thursday. “It has been very hard.”

“The only comfort I take from this is knowing that she is in a living hell, where no one cares about her.”

With that comment, Elvira Krstic, 20, gave an affirmative nod from the prisoner’s box.

Krstic’s sentencing hearing began Thursday with haunting surveillance videos of bus rides and a stabbing, plus Belanger’s anguished words.

Belanger’s 23-year-old son was stabbed to death outside a downtown London bar two years ago after Krstic, his ex-girlfriend, challenged him hours earlier on the bus to a fight with her new boyfriend.

Both she and Isak (Strapsz) Adams, 22, who plunged the knife into James’ heart, entered guilty pleas to manslaughter, a break from their initial second-degree murder charges. Adams was sentenced to 10 years after his guilty plea a year ago during the couple’s Ontario Court preliminary hearing.

Krstic’s guilty plea was entered just a month ago before Superior Court Justice Duncan Grace, who was told about the fight challenge and the fatal blow.

The videos shown in court made the senselessness of the crime even more palpable.

The first was a London Transit Commission video showing Krstic challenging James to fight Adams. The second, again from the LTC, showed Krstic and Adams get on a bus to find James downtown.

Two videos of the stabbing were shown that were recorded from different surveillance cameras at The Grinning Gator, the former bar on Richmond Street.

The violence was raw and quick. Krstic and Adams walked up to a group waiting outside the bar. Adams and James started fighting, Adams produced a knife and lunged at James while James tried to kick it away. Krstic hit James from behind.

Suddenly, James collapsed on the sidewalk in a heap, blood coming from his chest. Adams ran away, with Krstic close behind after retrieving her purse.

The final video showed the couple get on a bus after the stabbing. Adams looked dazed and threw up out the back door.

On the ride, Krstic checked her phone and texted. Before the end of the ride Adams looked at his phone and became emotional. Krstic appeared to comfort him and was smiling before they hopped off into the night.

Grace was told at Krstic’s guilty plea that they turned themselves in to police two weeks later.

Some of James’ family, including his mother, plus friends filled the public benches in the courtroom. Many wiped tears away while the videos were played.

Gardiner explained to Grace that Belanger asked her to read her words for her. What emerged from Belanger’s statement was the heartbreak of losing a child.

Belanger wrote that “my son is dead and so are my grandchildren.”

She has photos of her son “everywhere” because “it’s the only way I get to see his handsome, smiling face anymore.”

Belanger wrote that she knows her son wasn’t perfect, that he had “a past” and a temper. But he tried to control it, she wrote, and devoted himself to his friends and helping less fortunate people.

“The world is not a better place without him,” Belanger wrote.

And Krstic was one of the people he doted on, she wrote. He cooked for her and “made sure she made all her medical appointments.”

Krstic’s sentencing hearing continues on Friday. 

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