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Elderly wife-killer appeals murder conviction

Maria Catroppa was stabbed to death in 2009.  -
Maria Catroppa was stabbed to death in 2009.
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A Surrey senior who stabbed his wife more than 100 times when he killed her nearly three years ago wants his second-degree murder conviction quashed because he was mentally impaired when he did it.

Sebastiano Damin, 77, was sentenced last year to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for murdering 69-year-old Maria Catroppa.

On Tuesday (Oct. 2) three B.C. Court of Appeal justices heard Damin's second-degree murder appeal.

During the 2011 trial in New Westminster Supreme Court, his defence lawyers sought a lesser conviction of manslaughter, citing evidence Damin was severely depressed and his cognitive function was impaired at the time of the murder.

Damin's lawyer made a similar argument at the appeal hearing, claiming the trial judge, Justice Ian Josephson, did not give due consideration to testimony from Damin's psychiatrist. Catroppa's husband, it was argued, didn't know what he was doing when he killed her, due to his diminished mental state.

On Nov. 24, 2009, Catroppa and Damin were sleeping in separate rooms in their townhouse near 85 Avenue and 164 Street. The court heard Damin woke in the night to get a drink when "something snapped" in his head and he took a steak knife into his wife's room and stabbed her repeatedly. A forensic pathologist testified Catroppa had been stabbed 126 times.

Damin then tried to end his own life, but couldn't go through with it and called 911.

A psychiatrist testified the elderly man said he and his wife, who had been married for about 10 years, had been having relationship troubles and Catroppa wanted him to leave.

In his original judgment, Justice Josephson said Damin's crime showed the intent required for a second-degree murder conviction. Damin was angry his wife wanted to end the marriage "and that anger motivated the knife attack on the victim," said Josephson.

"This was not a single blow in a heated moment."

The Catroppa family has since become advocates against domestic abuse and shared Maria's story for the short film "The Honest Truth." They also established the The Maria Catroppa Memorial Award at Kwantlen Polytechnic University to help single mothers further their education.

Judgment on the appeal was reserved to a later date.

sreynolds@surreyleader.com

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