Different portraits of man, 78, stabbed to death by N.B. teen girl emerge

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Published on February 20, 2010

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - To his family and friends, Frank Tonge was a kind, grandfatherly figure and pillar of the local community. But to his teenage killer, he was a predator who for two years plied her with drugs in exchange for sex.
A starkly different portrayal of the 78-year-old New Brunswick man emerged Friday from the account given by the 16-year-old girl awaiting sentence on a charge of second-degree murder.
Victim impact statements read before a Saint John court painted a portrait of a benevolent man whose death has left a gaping wound that can't be healed.
"Losing my dad is the worst thing that has happened to me. He was my protector. I could always count on my dad," wrote Tammy Roy in a statement read by the Crown.
"I feel like I am a puzzle right now and cannot put the pieces back together."
Jennifer Pardiac wrote that her grandfather's life had just begun because he was travelling to new places and going to visit friends he hadn't seen in years.
"Regardless of his history, he was my Grampy whom I loved," she wrote.
Tonge was found slumped over a toilet in a pool of blood in his home on Terreo Lake in Damascus, northeast of Saint John, last June.
During the trial, the court heard that the girl stabbed Tonge in the neck and left him to die.
She testified she had been going to his home for two years because he provided marijuana to satisfy her drug addiction in return for sex.
Defence lawyer David Lutz said the girl was defending herself when she stabbed him at the doorway leading to the man's bedroom because she thought she was going to be raped.
Four women who don't know the girl also testified they were sexually assaulted by Tonge more than 30 years ago. The women - whose identities are protected - all said they decided to come forward after learning of Tonge's death and that a teenaged girl had been charged.
But friends saw Tonge in a different light.
"The man I knew would give the shirt off his back," wrote Mary LeBlanc, one of his friends, in another victim impact statement. "He would drop whatever he was doing to lend a helping hand."
She also wrote about how Tonge cared for his wife in her final years while she had Alzheimer's disease, describing him as a kind and loving husband.
"Losing him has left a big hole in my heart," wrote Donald Cleveland, who owned a neighbouring cottage and discovered the crime scene. "He was a close friend and was like a grandfather to me and my children.
"Words can't describe the horror I saw when I found his lifeless body slouched over his toilet that night. Every time I close my eyes, I see the bloody hand print on the wall, I can't sleep at night, it's like I am afraid of every noise in our house."
Cleveland's wife Lori said she and her young children were very close with Tonge and are having extreme difficulty coping with the loss.
"It is important for me to be able to look my children in the eye and tell them that justice has been served for our Frank," she said.
She was the only person who read her statement aloud.
The accused read her own statement to the court, saying she was sorry and wants to get her life back on track.
"I'm very remorseful for what I did to Mr. Frank Tonge and his family, as well as my own," said the girl, who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
"I have a well-known problem with drugs and would really like all the help I can get to overcome my addictions."
Crown and defence lawyers have asked that a psychological report be prepared in an effort to get the girl into a rehabilitation program for drug addiction.
There is a provision that allows for such programs under sentencing if it is felt that it will help with rehabilitation.
"Although she took a life, the program may save a life - hers," Lutz said.
The sentencing hearing for the girl, who was found guilty by a jury last month, will resume March 19.