The family of Samantha Kelly believe any sentence imposed on those who conspired to kill the mother-of-four pales in comparison to the one they are currently serving.
Christine Lyons, 47, was on Thursday sentenced to 30 years’ jail for her role as “architect” of the brutal murder of the Kangaroo Flat woman in January 2016.
Lyons was in June found guilty of the murder of housemate Samantha Kelly, who was bashed with a hammer by Lyons’ then-partner, Peter Arthur, in a bungalow behind a Kangaroo Flat house.
Her body was recovered from a dry creek bed at Shelbourne almost three weeks later.
Lyons’ former lover, Ronald Lyons, 46, who is unrelated, was also jailed for 12 years on Thursday for attempted murder and assisting an offender after he helped Arthur dispose of Ms Kelly's body.
“We didn’t just lose Samantha that day – we lost our entire family,” Ms Kelly’s sister-in-law Danielle Stevenson said.
“Our whole lives changed that day. To think they got a small sentence and we got a life sentence, it’s quite hard to take.”
Ms Stevenson, the partner of Ms Kelly’s brother, Michael, said the family was particularly troubled by Ronald Lyons’ sentence, which they considered inadequate.
“Even though he didn't play a crucial role (in Ms Kelly’s death) he still chose to lie about it and in our view is just as evil as she (Christine Lyons) is,” she said.
Ms Stevenson described the legal process, which she believed was shrouded in “deceit and lies” as “absolutely horrible”, with the family thankful it was over.
Peter Arthur, who killed Ms Kelly on January 23, 2016, was initially jailed for 16 years after pleading guilty to murder, but his sentence was extended to 22 years on appeal in February.
“We’re so glad the sentencing (of the Lyonses) has come – the more we try and move forward in our lives then the trial gets mentioned, it’s like a slap in the face,” Ms Stevenson said.
“It’s been so draining - knowing that its over so we can move on and make our own memories is just amazing.”
Ms Stevenson suggested some aspects of the trial which questioned Ms Kelly’s ability as a mother were especially difficult for the family to stomach.
“We want to make sure that people are aware that she wasn't a bad Mum,” she said.
Judge laments ‘heartless and thoroughly evil’ actions
A Supreme Court Judge described the actions that led to the death of Samantha Kelly as “heartless and thoroughly evil”, in sentencing Christine Lyons, the “architect” of the murder plan, to 30 years’ jail.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kaye on Thursday described the motive for the murder – for Lyons to take Ms Kelly’s four children – as “particularly grave”.
“The evidence, and the victim impact statements, demonstrate that Samantha was a loving, devoted and caring mother. The motive of each of you, to take from her, her four young children, by depriving her of her life, was heartless and thoroughly evil,” Justice Kaye said.
Christine Lyons will serve 23 years in jail before she is eligible for parole while Ronald Lyons will serve a minimum of nine years before he is considered for release.
Justice Kaye told the court the Lyonses’ charges of attempted murder were crimes committed over a period of more than two days in late January 2016, during which they repeatedly drugged Ms Kelly with the specific intention that she be killed.
“At no time did either of you resile from, or even express reservations about, that plan. Rather, it only failed to succeed because the dosages of medication administered by each of you, and Arthur, to Samantha, were insufficient to kill her at that time,” he said.
“The continued administration of the medication to her by each of you and by Arthur was callous and ruthless. At no time did her debilitated state excite in you any human feelings of pity, remorse or sympathy.
“Throughout the period of the offending, and at the time of her murder, Samantha Kelly was vulnerable, and, to all intents and purposes, defenceless, against the designs of each of you and Peter Arthur. Samantha trusted each of you and Arthur, and she sought refuge with you. In the most flagrant manner, each of you and Arthur totally betrayed that trust that she reposed in you.”
Justice Kaye told the court Christine Lyons was the key architect of the plan to kill Ms Kelly, orchestrating the means by which the plan was put into effect, including purchasing and administering the doses of medication.
“It was you who decided when it should be given to her, and the dosages by which it should be administered,” he said.
“The offences of attempted murder, and ultimately the murder, of Samantha, were committed principally for your own selfish purposes. By the commission of those crimes, you sought to rob an innocent and vulnerable woman of her children, so that you could take over the role of being a mother to them.”
When the first murder attempt of January 21-22 failed, the court heard Christine Lyons was the principal instigator in the altered plan to kill Samantha Kelly, directing Arthur, in the early hours of January 23, to proceed to the bungalow and “bludgeon her to death”.
“At that time, Samantha Kelly was significantly reduced by the effects of the medication, that had been administered to her over the previous two days. I am satisfied that, if you had not directed Arthur to murder her in that manner, he would not have proceeded to have done so of his own accord,” Justice Kaye said.
Justice Kaye said Christine Lyons’ offences were aggravated by a series of lies she told regarding her whereabouts following Ms Kelly’s death.
The court heard Ronald Lyons’ “callous” actions in helping Arthur hide Ms Kelly’s body deprived her of dignity in death.
“If Arthur had not subsequently relented, and told the police where her body was located, her children would have grown up never knowing where their mother was buried. It would have deprived them, and others close to Samantha, of any form of closure concerning her death,” Justice Kaye said.