Bella’s Brigade: Family of young murder victim in Edmonton frustrated by court delay

The sentencing hearing for the man who killed a 7-year-old Edmonton girl has been adjourned. The mother of Bella Rose Desrosiers speaks with Carly Robinson about the impacts of the delay.

Warning: contains graphic details some readers may find disturbing.

The mother of a seven-year-old murder victim will have to wait three more months to find out how long her daughter’s killer will spend behind bars.

In April, David Michael Moss was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Bella Rose Desrosiers.

Friday was meant to be his sentencing hearing, but it was pushed back because a report was not prepared.

The delay came as a shock to the young girl’s mother.

“I’m really trying to plan my life accordingly, with the trauma and grief always flooding in and out of my life,” said Melissa Francis, who sat down with CityNews Thursday – her first interview since the court process began.

Francis is hoping to shine a light on the impact of the justice system on a victim’s family.

“It is really, really hard to move forward with having these huge setbacks,” she said.

Moss changed lawyers in September. His new lawyer, Andrea Urquhart, says a clerical issue led to a Gladue Report not being ready. The pre-sentencing report for Indigenous offenders gives the judge an overview of systemic factors, such as discrimination and colonization, in the background.

Bella’s mother struggles to understand how an essential document could not be ready, with the initial sentencing date set months in advance.

“Waiting to have some form of closure,” she said. “I don’t feel we are ever going to have legitimate closure and justice with this, but we need some sort of answers.”

Francis took time off work to prepare for the PTSD the sentencing would inevitably bring back for her and her surviving daughter. It’s a leave she has had to extend.

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This latest adjournment comes after a lengthy and traumatic court case centering around the accused’s mental state and whether or not he met the requirements to be held not criminally responsible.

Moss has been in custody since the day he took scissors to Bella’s neck the evening of May 18, 2020.

While all parties agreed Moss was in some form of psychosis at the time of the homicide, ultimately a judge ruled he was guilty because the psychosis was likely cannabis induced and he understood the morality.

To shine a light on the case, Francis launched Bella’s Brigade – a new initiative the mother hopes will one day support others going through similar trauma.

“It really makes me feel connected to Bella as a whole, makes me feel supported,” she said. “Just saying her name, and having other people say her name is really, really special.”

Francis has made t-shirts, with funds raised going to a mental health retreat this summer.

One of those shirts with Bella Rose written on the sleeve is being proudly worn by the woman who was married to Moss at the time of the homicide.

“It should only be about Bella,” Tracy Couture-Starosta, who has since divorced Moss, told CityNews. “As a human, as a mother, as a friend. I think standing behind that family is what everyone should be doing.”

Couture-Starosta is still navigating the trauma of her ex-husband’s actions while raising their four children. She doesn’t know if she will ever find closure or understand his actions, but says it’s made more difficult while waiting for sentencing.

“There has to be an end,” she said. “Let’s put this away, let’s allow healing. Let’s move forward. I don’t know how to move forward because I’m always waiting.”

Moss’ new sentencing date is set for May 10, eight days before the fourth anniversary of Bella’s death.

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