Former Fort McMurray couple guilty of child sexual abuse, child porn charges

Andrew Wall and Marlena Bennett were found guilty of sexually abusing a minor and possessing and distributing child pornography.

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Warning: This story mentions instances of sexual abuse and may disturb readers.

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During a two-week trial last month, Andrew Wall had no shame or embarrassment in his voice as he admitted texts between himself and his girlfriend had graphic descriptions of sexually abusing children. However, he insisted they were fantasies and not real events. On Tuesday, a teary Wall shook his head, closed his eyes and fidgeted nervously while Court of King’s Bench Justice Shaina Leonard said she did not believe him.

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Wall and his girlfriend, Marlena Bennett, were found guilty of sexually interference of a minor, and possessing and transmitting child pornography. A sexual assault charge against Wall was stayed. They were found not guilty of bestiality charges. The two former Fort McMurray residents will be sentenced in the near future. They remain in police custody. As Wall reacted to Leonard’s judgement, Bennett sat still and held back tears, occasionally whispering to Wall.

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“I reject their assertions that their messages were part of a vivid and detailed fantasy. I do not believe Mr. Wall’s and Ms. Bennett’s evidence,” said Leonard. “I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the text messages between Mr. Wall and Ms. Bennett expressed actual events that occurred.”

The couple were charged in February 2021 after the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre detected images of child pornography uploaded online.

During the trial, Crown prosecutor Bonnie Parker described Wall as a sexual predator who preyed on children and manipulated Bennett into an accomplice. Bennett’s lawyer, Frank Carbonaro, described Bennett as lonely and traumatized from past sexual abuse, a failed marriage and multiple miscarriages. Wall took advantage of her, said Carbonaro, and Bennett was abused verbally, emotionally and psychologically.

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Parker read multiple texts the couple sent each other between 2016 and 2020. They were read again on Tuesday by Leonard. They included detailed descriptions of sexually abusing children, including an infant the couple knew, and plans to manipulate parents into giving them access to children. Leonard agreed with Parker that some texts described real cases of abuse.

Bennett and Wall were also found guilty of sending each other child pornography, including images of a child they knew. Wall was also found guilty of possessing 14 images and videos of child pornography on his cell phone and laptop when he was charged.

fort mcmurray court house
The Fort McMurray Court House on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

A sexual assault charge against Wall was stayed. This means the Crown has one year to recommence charges and resume trial.

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Leonard found Bennett not guilty of bestiality and Wall not guilty of compelling bestiality. Texts from 2020 described Wall encouraging Bennett to sexually abuse her dog. Leonard said she believed Bennett knew Wall wanted her to do this. She also noted Bennett admitted during the trial she sexually abused a dog in 2016. But, Leonard ruled the Crown had not proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Bennett actually carried out this action in 2020.

The couple stayed with friends in Fort McMurray during the trial. They left Fort McMurray for B.C. shortly after they were charged. The case disgusted and angered the community, and threats were made against their lives.

Wood Buffalo RCMP warned people against vigilantism after people with no connection to the couple reported harassment. The complainants were living in a home mistakenly identified on social media as the home of Bennett and Wall.

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