|Robert James Johnston shown during his court appearance on Monday, May 14, 2012. Johnston pleaded guilty to attempt murder in a brutal domestic attack in 2011. Courtroom sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod.
OTTAWA -- A 25-year-old gas fitter who'd never been in trouble with the law was sentenced to a decade behind bars Monday for trying to kill his common-law wife in an attack so savage rescuers thought they'd found a corpse.
"Your life was perfect -- a fairy tale, but a fairy tale with a very unhappy ending," Judge Heather Perkins-McVey told Robert James Johnston, calling his case "shocking."
Apparently full of remorse, he pleaded guilty to attempted murder and forcible confinement.
Johnston had been jealous and controlling before but when the woman told him their relationship was over on March 9, 2011, he launched a vicious attack with their toddler nearby.
"If you're not going to be with me, you're not going to live," he said.
Johnston smashed her head against a bathroom tap, the tub and the floor, and tried to snap her neck and suffocate her with a pillow, a comforter and his hands.
He stopped the beating long enough to sexually assault her in a pool of her own blood - "the ultimate in degradation," Perkins-McVey said.
The woman needed blood tranfusions to save her life. Bone was visible through a gash on her forehead that's a daily reminder of what happened. Her skull was fractured, leaving her with permanent brain damage, and a surgeon pieced together her shattered face.
She and her little daughter still have nightmares.