Surrey senior sentenced to life in jail for wife's murder; no parole for 10 years

Maria Catroppa -
Maria Catroppa
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In mid-2009, Jay Tuason was in the midst of completing her PhD.

Her mother, Maria Catroppa kept telling her eldest daughter she was working too hard – that she never got to see her anymore.

"Don't worry," Tuason would tell her mom. "I'll have more time to spend with you after I'm done my PhD."

But Tuason is now haunted by those words. Six months later, her mom would be found dead in her Surrey home, stabbed to death by her husband of 10 years, Sebastiano Damin.

Damin, 76, was convicted June 2 in B.C. Supreme Court of stabbing his wife to death in 2009 and sentenced in the same court Friday. A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence, minus the 17 months Damin has already spent in jail. Justice Ian Josephson set parole eligibility at 10 years.

On Nov. 24, 2009, Damin woke in the middle of the night, got a steak knife from the kitchen, and stabbed 69-year-old Catroppa 126 times. In delivering his sentence, Josephson called the murder a "brutal, frenzied attack," saying Damin has condemned those close to Catroppa "to an emotional jail."

The court heard more than a dozen victim impact statements from Catroppa's grandchildren, children, relatives and friends.

The Italian grandmother's amazing cooking and generosity were praised, as were her altruism and warm heart.

"I lost not only my mother, but my best friend," said daughter Giuseppiana Osterman, who had her mom over for lunch the day or the murder. "I often want to go  back in time and stop my mom from leaving my house," Osterman wept.

Osterman's daughter, Amanda, said since her grandmother's murder, she has no intention of getting married. She referred to Damin, the only grandfather she ever knew, as a demon and a monster.

"It now disgusts me that we welcomed him into our family," Amanda said, often glaring at the elderly man in the prisoner's box, who sat hunched over and expressionless throughout the court proceedings.

Nick Catroppa, Maria's youngest son, said while what he and his family have gone through has been a nightmare, he still has one more horrid day ahead – the day he has to tell his young children the truth about how their Nana died.

Many family members spoke of warning signs Catroppa was a victim of domestic abuse – her husband forbidding her to leave the house, struggling with her for car keys and standing over her while she slept.

During the trial in April, the court heard the elderly couple was having marital troubles and Damin believed his wife wanted him to leave.

Defence lawyers were seeking a manslaughter conviction, but Josephson said Damin showed the necessary intent for second-degree murder.

"This was not a single blow in a heated moment," Josephson said.

Catroppa was a mother of four and grandmother of seven. Her world was turned upside down in 1973 when her first husband and father of her children was killed in a hunting accident. She managed as a single mother to put her kids first and keep a roof over their heads and vowed not to remarry until her children were grown. In 1999 she married Damin, the man who would, 10 years later, murder her.

Catroppa's family has since learned her story is eerily similar to those of many victims of spousal abuse. They have now established The Maria Catroppa Memorial Award at Kwantlen Polytechnic University to help single mothers who might not otherwise be able to further their education. For more information about the award, call 604-599-2010.

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