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HomeWorld newsOkanagan woman sentenced in connection with 2020 Vernon motel killing

Okanagan woman sentenced in connection with 2020 Vernon motel killing

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details. Reader discretion is advised.

For fatally beating an acquaintance she’d invited to stay in her room four years ago, an Okanagan woman was sentenced to the next 605 days in prison.

Paige Courtney Howse was sentenced to five years in prison, less 1,220 days of time served for the Feb. 28, 2020 manslaughter death of Alisha Lemp, 33. She pleaded guilty to the crime in 2023.

During Howse’s May 31 sentencing, Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said the two women were living at a hotel room in Vernon, B.C., when a fatal altercation broke out.

“They had worked together in the sex trade industry. At the time of the offence,  Howse was living and working out of Room 206 of the Canada Best Value Inn and Suites in Vernon,” Donegan said.

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“She invited Lemp to stay and work with her. Lemp accepted the invitation. In Kelowna at the time, Lemp secured a ride to Vernon from her stepfather, on Feb.25, 2020. She expected to stay with Howse for a period of one week.”

Lemp, that night, went to the liquor store and bought a 1.5‑litre bottle of wine now believed to the instrument with which Howse caused her death on Feb. 27, 2020.

Before that altercation, however, Lemp and Howse went to the Lake City Casino in Vernon. Slightly over an hour later the two returned home.

“Howse walked briskly upstairs to Room 206. She appeared to be in an agitated state,” Donegan said. “Lemp followed behind, walking unsteadily up the stairs and into Room 206.  Lemp did not leave Room 206 alive.”

Click to play video: 'Police quiet as sudden death investigation continues'

Police quiet as sudden death investigation continues

It was around midnight when people in the neighbouring rooms could hear arguing and yelling. One woman said she was not able to sleep in a nearby room because of the loud music, banging and arguing coming from the women’s room, Donegan wrote in her decision. That, however, did not appear to be when the fatal fight broke out.

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“Whatever caused the arguing, banging, and noises coming from Room 206 in those early morning hours of Feb. 27, it appears that Lemp was still alive and planning to leave Vernon at 9:51 a.m.,” Donegan said.

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“It was at this time that  Lemp sent a text message to her stepfather to pick her up from Vernon.”

Shortly thereafter, however,  another hotel resident started hearing someone “hitting a wall” and they said it lasted for three hours. Another guest heard something similar.

“Between the hours of 11:24 a.m. and 12:17 p.m. on February 27, 2020,  Howse struck the left side of   Lemp’s head more than once with what is believed to be the 1.5‑litre wine bottle while they were inside Room 206,” Donegan said.

“Her strikes to  Lemp continued, as  Lemp’s body elevation changed to the floor level in front of the door inside the room, causing her death. In other words,   Howse struck  Lemp more than once, including when she was on her way down to the ground and/or on the ground.”

An autopsy revealed that Lemp’s death was caused by blunt‑force trauma to the head. There were multiple lacerations to her scalp and the inside of her mouth on the left side of her head, multiple linear skull fractures, and various hemorrhages to the left side of her brain.

Lemp also suffered fractures to her nasal bone and jaw, hemorrhages on the right side of her brain, a broken tooth, multiple bruises on the left side of her face, multiple bruises and abrasions on her arms and wrists, and an injury to her right hand and forearm, an injury to her left wrist, and a possible left‑foot injury.

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Lemp’s fatal injuries were never treated, given that Howse left the room after the damage was inflicted. Instead, she moved her body away from the room’s window and tidied up a bit. Then she took off, leaving hotel workers to discover the carnage.

Click to play video: 'Accused killer dies amid length court case in Vernon'

Accused killer dies amid length court case in Vernon

Howse was arrested on March 1, 2020 in Kelowna. She had in her possession a necklace and driver’s licence, belonging to Lemp. She also still had her blood on her boots.

What caused the altercation and who was the aggressor are two issues Donegan couldn’t discern.

Referring to past comments from Howse in her decision, Donegan said Howse didn’t know if she was using drugs at the time or what the argument was about.

According to the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Howse, her memory of the event was spotty. It’s described as “only flashes of seeing the victim with wounds to the head on the floor and feeling frightened.”

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“It is uncertain if  Howse acted in self-defense or it was the other way round,” Dr. Niti Bhatia wrote in a report that Donegan referenced.

“It is difficult to give a response with certainty about what exactly transpired during the fight. As per the account of individuals who knew the victim, she would get difficult when drunk. On the other end, Howse suffers from a psychotic disorder associated with paranoid delusions.

“There is a possibility that she acted impulsively and in a state of paranoia struck the victim in what she may have perceived as a physical attack on her person. Be that as it may, Howse too is known to be violent. She herself reported that she had been in several fights.”

Other doctors have also weighed in, and they all agree Howse has schizophrenia, may have had a psychotic break and will require further support. She is at a high risk to reoffend.

This is what has led to some of the conditions she’s facing. In addition to prison, Donegan imposed conditions that will see Howse under close watch.

She’s agreed to report to Forensic Psychiatric Services or elsewhere for any intake, assessment, counselling, or treatment as directed by her probation officer.

She was ordered to attend all scheduled appointments with the professionals in charge of her mental health care; take all medications and medical treatment prescribed to her by those professionals and she’s banned from alcohol and drugs.

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