NEW WESTMINSTER – A Surrey woman who stabbed her mother 24 times with the force of pounding a nail into hard wood and left her to die on her basement suite floor with the knife still stuck in her chest has been found guilty of second-degree murder.
Gloria Zerbinos, 30, wore a blank expression as B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven described the attack, in which the victim was repeatedly stabbed through her heart.
“It is clear the attack was extremely violent and at least somewhat prolonged,” the judge noted. Zerbinos’ “lethal intention,” he said, “could hardly be more emphatically demonstrated.”
Earlier this year, Verhoeven rejected Zerbinos’ defence that she should be found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder in the Nov. 8, 2012 stabbing death of her 43-year-old mother Panagiota “Yota” Zerbinos.
The killer faces a mandatory life sentence but will be back in the New Westminster courthouse on Dec. 4 when the Crown and defence lawyers will present their submissions on when she should be eligible to apply for parole.
After the verdict was revealed on Tuesday the victim’s common-law husband, Trevor Forsyth, said, “It is what it is.”
His brother Scott, who found Panagiota’s body lying on the floor of her daughter’s tiny basement suite in Fleetwood, told reporters there was “not a doubt in my mind” the judge would find the killer guilty of second-degree murder.
“We just have to wait for December now,” he said.
During the trial the court heard that at the tail end of a series of police interrogations after her arrest Zerbinos had told the officers her mom was involved in a conspiracy to chloroform her and pimp her out, and that she had to put a stop to it. “It sounds crazy, but it’s true,” she told the police.
She said her mom “pissed her off.”
Gloria was Panagiota’s only child. When the mother dropped off her daughter’s laundry, the court heard, the daughter confronted her about this sexual slavery conspiracy and that, Zerbinos told police, “went sour.”
The court had already heard testimony that Zerbinos had assaulted her mother on more than one occasion before the homicide, and that the mother had been afraid to be alone with her daughter in the months leading up to her death.
Zerbinos did not testify on her own behalf.
The court heard she suffered from psychotic delusions while living in Saskatoon several years earlier and claimed that evil spirits were coming through light sockets in her bedroom and trying to molest her. She set up toy cameras she’d bought from a dollar store, to catch them in the act, reasoning that the spirits didn’t know they were toys. She also blamed a boyfriend of being involved in a black-market sex slavery conspiracy against her.
Verhoeven noted that psychiatrists had difficulty arriving at a common diagnosis of Zerbinos.
The judge also noted witnesses who had seen Zerbinos before and after the killing found her to be normal, pleasant and polite. Her grandmother, now deceased, testified she noticed nothing unusual about her granddaughter when Zerbinos dropped her son and dog off at her place shortly after the stabbing.
“These seemingly normal actions occurred probably 20 minutes after the killing,” Verhoeven noted. There was nothing unusual about her behaviour during the police interrogations other than “a few odd comments” at the end, he added.
“This put into doubt she was suffering from active psychosis at the time.”
Verhoeven also noted Zerbinos had violently attacked her mom on other occasions for reasons apparently not connected to her sex slavery delusions.
He found there is a “real possibility” she invented the delusions to explain the stabbing and it might have been a “retrofit” from her Saskatoon days.
The court heard Zerbinos displayed a considerable capacity for deception. The judge found she “had a strong need to justify her horrific actions.”
She may have flew into a rage for some other reason, and used the conspiracy story to explain it, he said.
Crown prosecutor Craig Yamashiro said during the trial that a pathologist found Zerbinos had stabbed her mom with the force of “pounding a nail into hard wood.”
She was arrested in Vancouver on Nov. 10, 2012, inside a Vancouver strip club called No. 5 Orange, where she’d worked as a dancer about a year and a half earlier under her stage name, “Naudia Nice.”