National Post

Thursday, November 26, 1998

Woman who killed husband shocked she didn't get jail time
Her bags were packed: Abuse victim got conditional sentence she's serving at home

Ron Corbett
Ottawa Citizen


Kim Stallknecht, Ottawa Citizen / Lilian Getkate enjoys family time with her children Dara, 12, and Kevin, eight. She is serving her sentence at home in Maple Ridge, B.C., for shooting her husband twice while he was sleeping in December, 1995.

Lilian Getkate, a victim of spousal abuse who was sentenced to little more than community service after killing her husband, said in her first interview since her trial that she was surprised she was not jailed for his murder.

"I was startled," she said. "I took someone's life and I'm not going to jail. Of course I'm surprised by that.

"I was quite prepared to go to jail. I was packed, my things were in boxes, I thought I was going to jail. My lawyer had told me to expect about three years. That's what I thought I was going to get."

Until recently, not many people in Maple Ridge, a bedroom community outside Vancouver knew about Getkate. That changed last month when a judge issued a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served at home after she shot her husband twice while he was sleeping.

The day after the sentencing, Getkate was on the front page of the Vancouver Province; the headline read: Killer Mom Home Free.

Getkate, 38, grew up here, and it was here that she returned after killing her husband, Maury Getkate, in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 1995, for which she has spent a total of 11 days in jail.

She lives here with her father. Her mother, who lives five minutes away, has custody of Getkate's two children, Dara, 12, and Kevin, eight. Getkate sees her children almost daily, and has done so since shortly after killing their father. She works at a printing shop in nearby Burnaby.

"This past week it's been a bit rough at work," she said in an interview at her home. "There has been gossip from some of the people I work with. Up until the sentencing, not many people knew me. Then my face is in the paper . . . The title angered me. Killer Mom. I didn't think that was right."

Getkate did kill her husband, while her children slept nearby. No one ever disputed the facts.

But by arguing that Getkate was a battered spouse, and in a "disassociative state" at the time of the killing, her lawyer convinced the jury to find her guilty of manslaughter, not murder, and then convinced the judge that his client should not serve jail time.

The Getkate children are well aware of the controversy over their mother's sentence. Kevin, in Grade 3, brought in newspaper stories for show and tell. Apparently it went over well: The teachers thanked him; the children asked excited questions.

"We have let the children see everything," explained Getkate. "They've read all the articles and I think they're handling it well. Dara has questions and I try to answer them as best I can. Kevin doesn't talk about it much.

"They've had counselling, off and on, although they're not getting any now. Really, the kids are doing great."

Getkate hopes to be reunited with her children next month. She has plans to rent a house with friends, and then apply for formal custody of the children. The family may be reunited before Christmas.

Getkate hopes to go back to school one day, maybe get another job in the "helping industry" (she has worked at nursing homes in the past) although for the moment she'll continue at the printing shop. It's casual work and her counsellors and doctors have told her she shouldn't work full time yet.

Eventually she says she may even want to work with "battered women and women in abusive relationships. I think I have something to give. Because of my experiences, I can help."

Next month, the Crown will find out if it can appeal Getkate's sentence. Getkate has put any thought of jail behind her. "I'm getting on with my life now," she said. "I just want to live quietly with my children.

"Those people who are saying all those things about me, unless they've walked a mile in my shoes, why would they want to judge me? Let me just go away."

Copyright Southam Inc.