Shawn Lamb, who was originally charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter in a Winnipeg courtroom.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull agreed to accept the 20 years sentence that was recommended by both the Crown and defence. Lamb, who is 54, can apply for parole in nine years.
"He may never see the outside of a prison," Saull said in his judgement. "A lengthy, expensive trial would require the families to endure another year or two of anguish with the very real possibility of an acquittal."
The families of the two women sobbed as the Crown read out the gruesome facts of the case. Many left or were escorted out by security after yelling and swearing at Lamb.
"I can stand here for whatever life I have left to live and apologize. It's not going to do any good," Lamb told the court. "An apology is nothing. It doesn't change what happened ... I did the best that I could do to try to help the families have some answers, some closure. It's just a terrible thing."
Amanda Sinclair, Carolyn's sister, agreed the apology meant nothing.
"It was just like sticking a knife in my back," she said. "This was just as painful as having to sit through a trial."
Lamb has been in custody since his arrest in June 2012 in the deaths of Sinclair, Blacksmith and Tanya Nepinak. Nepinak's body has never been found and Lamb is still facing charges in her death.
Last July, Lamb consented to having the Sinclair and Blacksmith charges sent directly to trial instead of first facing a preliminary hearing. Court heard Thursday that both women were killed in Lamb's apartment in 2012 after they had smoked crack cocaine. Their bodies were found wrapped in plastic and dumped in back alleys.
Crown attorney Sheila Leinburd told court that Lamb, who is originally from Sarnia, Ont., had been taken into police custody on an unrelated matter when he told them he knew where "bodies" were.
Lamb told police he hit Sinclair, 25, over the head with an axe handle, strangled her and left her body in his bathroom for several days before he dumped it near a garbage bin.
He told police he strangled Blacksmith, 18, with a TV cord, tried to revive her and then left to buy more drugs. He eventually dumped her body behind an abandoned house where it wasn't found until six months later.
Leinburd and defence lawyer Martin Glazer agreed that Lamb's confession would probably have been ruled inadmissible had the charges gone to trial. Glazer alleges Lamb was paid by police for his confession and, without the confession, he probably would have gone free. The payment allegation wasn't explored any further in court.
"He ended up doing the right thing by confessing," Glazer told Saull. "At the time, police had no idea he was involved. He confessed and told police where the bodies were.
"How many people in his shoes would do that?"
Glazer suggested that Lamb's admission of guilt has given the victims' families the closure they needed. Lamb wrote three letters of apology to the families of Sinclair and Blacksmith, Glazer said.
"Everyday I pray for ... Carolyn and always will," Glazer read from one of the letters. "I'm so sorry."
In a letter to Blacksmith's family, Lamb called Blacksmith a "beautiful person, a beautiful spirit," Glazer said.
"My words will never be enough," Lamb wrote. "I am so deeply sorry."
Lamb was in a "drug-fuelled state" and couldn't have formed an intent to murder, Glazer said. Both killings were spontaneous and impulsive, he said.
"I turn into a monster at times," Lamb told the court, adding he first started doing hard drugs at the age of 12. "I think all drug addicts will relate to that ... I hate what I've become from my addiction. I can't relate to that person."
Lamb briefly caused a stir in the courtroom when he declared he wanted to rescind his guilty pleas because he objected to the word "psychopath," which was apparently included in a medical report.
After consulting with his lawyer, however, he changed his mind and said his pleas would stand.
Carolyn's sister Amanda said the plea deal means Lamb could be back on the streets too soon.
"In nine years, do I get to see my sister?" Sinclair said as she choked up. "Does she get to come back to me? No. That's not fair at all. I'm never going to get her back."