'I am a survivor:' Victim says vicious sexual assault changed her life

Defence lawyer Tonii Roulston speaks to the media in Red Deer, Alta., Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. An Alberta man whose random sexual attack left a southern Alberta woman having to learn how to walk and talk again will face a sentencing hearing today. Denzel Dre Colton Bird's lawyer, Tonii Roulston, said she will be asking for a sentence in the six-to-eight year range. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - A woman who was so badly beaten during a sexual assault that she had to learn how to walk and talk again says there have been times when she wished her attacker had "finished her off."

The woman's victim impact statement was read in a Lethbridge court Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of Denzel Dre Colton Bird for aggravated sexual assault and break and enter.

Bird, 21, pleaded guilty last fall to striking the then-25-year-old woman from behind with a metal pipe, dragging her into an alley and sexually assaulting her while she was walking to work in September 2016.

The blows caused multiple skull fractures and broke facial bones.

The woman, who was in a separate courtroom with her family, said she struggles with her emotions, has trouble with her balance and contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Bird.

"I am not the same person I was," she said in her written statement.

"At times I even wished Bird had finished me off but then I remember how strong I am and I don't want to give him that power over me. I'm more alive than ever. He hasn't taken away my will to live. I am a survivor."

Her family also spoke about how the brutal crime has changed her life and theirs.

The woman's husband said since the attack he is now more of her caretaker or guardian.

"My wife and the person she was died that day," he said. "She doesn't even remember anything about our wedding or honeymoon."

Another family member said she's reminded of what happened every time she walks in the dark.

"Our faith in the goodness of humankind has been broken."

The victim's sister didn’t recognize her when she saw her in the hospital bed. She said her progress has been amazing.

Court heard that a passerby discovered the woman, partially naked and stuffed into a garbage can. She was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and spent weeks in a medically induced coma.

Crown prosecutor Erin Olsen asked the court for a 20 year sentence.

"He knew the victim was unconscious and was in pain and in difficulty and he continued to assault her," he said.

Bird's lawyer asked for an additional six years on top of the 18 months he has already been in custody.

Tonii Roulston said her client is remorseful and would benefit from counselling.

At the end of the hearing Bird tearfully apologized to the family.

"It only took eight hours to completely change not only my life but the life of the person I tore apart. I cannot imagine what her husband went through each and every night," Bird said.

"I don't know if the right word is sorry or not but I do pray each and every night for forgiveness ... to have that girl heal. I know I ripped her soul out mentally, physically, psychologically."

Provincial court Judge Jerry LeGrandeur reserved his decision. A date for when he will deliver his sentence is to be set April 20.

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