Stensholt given 20 years for murder

A MOYSTON woman was today sentenced to 20 years' jail, with a non-parole period of 16 years, for murdering her ex-partner's mother. 

Leah Marie Stensholt, 42, of Moyston, near Ararat, sat in the dock of the Supreme Court in Ballarat wiping her eyes with a tissue when Justice Elizabeth Curtain read out the sentence. 

The court was told that on May 5 last year Stensholt travelled to the house of Carol McDonald, the mother of her ex-partner Paul McDonald.

After being refused entry into the house by Ms McDonald, Stensholt smashed a glass door panel with a pot plant and made her way inside through the front door. 

Stensholt then grabbed 65-year-old Ms McDonald by the throat, pushed her backwards down the hallway into the kitchen, picked up a 20cm knife from a drawer and stabbed her in the neck. Ms McDonald died at the scene.

"This was a cruel, callous and vindictive act."

Justice Elizabeth Curtain

The court heard on that same day, Stensholt received a phone call from her ex-partner explaining the couples' two younger children wanted to live with him. Stensholt has six children, three fathered by Mr McDonald, the court was told.

Defence lawyer Peta Murphy said her client, who was suffering from a number of stresses at the time of the murder, was worried she would never see her two youngest children again. 

Justice Curtain described the murder as cruel and callous. "This was a cruel, callous and vindictive act," she said.

"At that time (McDonald) had done nothing to provoke you. You had nothing to do with her in the past five years." 

Justice Curtain said while the murder was not planned or premeditated, Stensholt had formed the intention to kill when she approached the second door on the verandah at Ms McDonald's house. 

"When you did form the intention to kill, you acted on it immediately," Justice Curtain said.

When handing down the sentence, Justice Curtain said she took into account Stensholt's guilty plea, diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, history of anxiety, depression and self harm and apology to the McDonald family. 

"If it had not been for your plea of guilty, I would have sentenced you to 23 years in prison, with a non- parole period of 19 years," Justice Curtain said. 

She said Stensholt had already served 323 days in custody and was "stable in a prison environment". 

In the Supreme Court in Melbourne on November 6 last year, Stensholt plead guilty to one count of murder.