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Helen Montgomery murder

Province pays family of slain group home operator

Helen Montgomery

SASKATOON - The provincial goverment will pay $142,500 to the family of a North Battleford woman killed in 1997 by two teenage girls who were in custody at her community home.

On Dec. 18, 1997, Helen Montgomery, 58, was struck on the head with a cast-iron frying pan and then stabbed 15 times with a kitchen knife.

Her body was discovered the next morning by her daughter, Valerie Montgomery-Bull.

Serena Nicotine and Catherine McKenzie, both young offenders, later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Montgomery's family filed a lawsuit against the government of Saskatchewan last year.

OFFSITE: CBC news July 31, 2014 Catherine McKenzie wins day parole

In the suit, Valerie Montgomery-Bull said the province knowingly placed her mother in grave danger by putting Serena Nicotine in her house without giving Montgomery any training or warning her of Nicotine's potential for violence. Nicotine was serving a sentence for murder at the time she was transferred to Montgomery's house.

As part of the settlement, the province will present an annual community service award in memory of Helen Montgomery.

"We have conveyed our profound sympathies and apologies to the Montgomery family," Corrections and Public Safety Minister Peter Prebble said Monday in a news release.

Family moves ahead with lawsuit
Compensation, apology sought by children of Helen Montgomery

The family of Helen Montgomery is moving ahead with a lawsuit that seeks compensation from the provincial government for pain and suffering caused by the death of their mother seven years ago.

Montgomery, a community home operator in North Battleford, was killed by two youths, Serena Nicotine and Catherine McKenzie, in 1997.

The lawsuit was filed in 1998, but it could not move forward until the criminal trials had concluded, the family's lawyer, Jack Hillson, said Monday.

McKenzie and Nicotine are serving life sentences for second-degree murder.

Hillson did not give a dollar figure on the amount sought in damages.

Montgomery's children, Valerie Montgomery-Bull and Colin Lochrie, also want the government to publicly apologize, to reassure them this will never happen again and to explain why Social Services sent the two girls to live in Montgomery's home.

"My mother didn't stand a chance," Montgomery-Bull said in an interview Monday. "I don't know how (Nicotine) got released to my mom's home."

Hillson said even prison guards have said they can't handle Serena Nicotine.

"She shouldn't have been allowed out," Montgomery-Bull said.

Hillson said the only training Montgomery received to deal with violent young offenders was a suicide prevention course.

"This was negligence and bad judgment in the extreme," he said.

Montgomery-Bull said she wants some compensation for lost wages and for damages to other aspects of her life as a result of her mother's death.

"There was nothing that was the same about my life anymore," she said. She says she lost her job and had to undergo counselling.

"I need closure," she said, adding seven years is "a long time to wait for closure."

A statement from the family and Hillson said Premier Lorne Calvert, then social services minister, met with Montgomery-Bull after the killing, but never followed up the meeting.

The statement also said Calvert called for a review of the program that sent Nicotine and McKenzie to Montgomery's home, and then cancelled the program.

The province has not compensated the family for their mother's murder, but the government did reimburse Montgomery-Bull for some of her mother's funeral expenses, the statement says.

Hillson hopes an examination for discovery -- the next step in the lawsuit -- will start next month and the case will go to trial early in 2005.