Mehgan Pronick doesn’t want her picture taken.
The 26-year-old isn’t comfortable in front of a camera since she was set on fire last December, leaving her face disfigured and causing extensive scarring to the majority of her body.
Still, Pronick, 26, walked into Surrey Provincial Court with family and friends Friday to attend the sentencing hearing for the girl who doused her with a flammable fluid and then used an aerosol can and lighter to torch her – all over a bicycle.
Danielle Merasty, 22, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault this summer in connection with the Dec. 17, 2011 attack in North Surrey.
The court heard that Merasty and Pronick met months earlier, in the spring of 2011. Both were crystal methamphetamine users living on the street in Whalley, according to Crown prosecutor Don Wilson.
Last December, Merasty showed up at a house in Guildford with a bike that Pronick recognized as someone else’s. She took the bicycle and returned it to its owner, which angered Merasty.
She threatened Pronick, telling her to get her another bike or she’d “burn” her.
“You burned me, I’ll burn you.”
In the following days, she told other people she was going to light Pronick on fire but no one took the threats seriously, including the victim herself.
In a video shown in court of Pronick speaking to a police officer from her hospital bed, Pronick described how she and Merasty again argued about the bike on Dec. 17 by a shed behind a residence near 133 Street and 103 Avenue.
Merasty, she said, had a plastic cup containing liquid in one hand and what looked like a spray paint can in the other.
“We argued for awhile and I just kept saying ‘you’re not going to light me on fire.’ And eventually she did,” said Pronick.
Merasty threw the cup of flammable liquid – which police believe was a mixture of a paint thinner-type liquid called toluene and some sort of soap – covering Pronick from head to toe. She then lit the spray from the aerosol can so it became a torch and Pronick was engulfed in flames.
The Crown then alleges Merasty turned and walked away.
“She didn’t stop, she didn’t help, she didn’t do anything,” said Wilson.
The prosecutor said a man sleeping in the shed came out to see Pronick on fire, screaming, “Danielle lit me on fire. Put me out. Put me out.” But that proved difficult due to the water insolubility and adhesive nature of the flammable liquid used. When a blanket and hose didn’t work, someone finally got a fire extinguisher. At one point, said Wilson, she begged those around her to kill her because she was in so much pain.
Pronick suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to 67 per cent of her body and was given a 50 per cent chance of survival. She was in hospital for for about six months and so far, has had 13 surgeries but requires many more.
Merasty, her hair in two French braids, wept often in the prisoner’s box as she listened to the details, her face red as she wiped tears from her face with the sleeve of her grey sweatshirt. She has no prior criminal record.
In a victim impact statement read in court, Pronick, who has a young daughter, said her life as she knew it was taken away that night, as were her future hopes of having a career and family.
“Will any man look beyond the hideous scars that cover my body? Look at me.
“Why me? My main question is why?”
Pronick’s younger sister Rebecca said her young daughter and Pronick’s daughter have been ambivalent about approaching Pronick because of her appearance.
“It’s been very painful to watch the kids try to warm up to her,” said her sister.
The maximum sentence for aggravated assault is 14 years prison. The Crown is asking for 10 to 12 years, while the defence is seeking five years.
Defence lawyer Jordan Allingham told Judge Robin Baird that Merasty is of Cree descent and was raised in poverty in Surrey. She left home at 14 because of the drugs and abuse in her home, was drinking by 15 and using meth at 16. She’s been sober for the eight months she’s been in custody.
Merasty is “extremely remorseful,” said Allingham, and was “at the depths of addiction” at the time she attacked Pronick.
“Her actions on that day are not reflective of who she is as a person,” he said. “She accepts all responsibility…”
Laurie Pronick, Mehgan’s mom, said her daughter was a beautiful girl with a bright future.
“Fourteen years (the maximum sentence) is not even close because my daughter has a life sentence.”