“You have taken the life of your stepdad and all the court can do is take away your liberty.”
With these words, Durban magistrate Anand Maharaj yesterday sentenced teenage killer Shandel-Anne Kisten to 10 years imprisonment.
He told a timid-looking Kisten that the act of lacing her stepfather’s tea, having the presence of mind to make him breakfast and verify that he was asleep by trying to wake him up, revealed a young person whose mental ability was far beyond her tender age.
Kisten was, however, not taken to prison as she was released on R5 000 bail after her attorney, Siven Samuel, appealed the conviction and sentence. The matter will now be referred to the Durban High Court for an appeal hearing.
Kisten, 18, of Shallcross, was this week found guilty of killing her stepfather, Selvanathan Chetty, by strangling him with a dressing gown belt after spiking his tea. She initially pleaded guilty to the murder of Chetty in 2009, but changed her mind last month, claiming she was merely an accomplice and that her mother, Lucy Kisten, had been the main perpetrator of the crime and she had only helped.
She said in her initial guilty plea that she had acted alone in drugging Chetty with sleeping tablets and then strangling him with the belt of a dressing-gown.
However, last month magistrate Maharaj changed Kisten’s plea to not guilty after she said her mother had put the sleeping tablets in his tea and started to strangle him, but he had overpowered her.
Her mother had then asked for her help, she said.
A petite Kisten clasped her hands and looked down when magistrate Maharaj handed down the sentence yesterday, describing her as “cold, calculating and heartless” and not a “meek, immature, distraught young child”.
“The manner in which you committed the crime shows a level and presence of mind as someone far more mature than your 15 years would suggest,” said Magistrate Maharaj, adding that she might be the youngest offender in the country to have physically killed when she committed the crime.
Kisten was 15 at the time of the murder. “You now have the stigma of being in the category of young offenders,” he said.
Handing down his sentence, Magistrate Maharaj said he had taken into consideration her age, that she was a first-time offender, and a mother to her six-month-old baby.
“The irony in this case is that you have taken the life of your stepdad but now you nurture your own child as a mother,” he said,
He, however, added how Kisten had not shown any remorse during the trial and had failed to apologise to Chetty’s family.
“The sentence has to be robust to indicate the gravity of the offence lest the offender get the impression that her age is a shield against incarceration,” he said.
Outside court, Chetty’s mother, Angie Chetty, said the sentence meted out was tantamount to a slap on the wrist. “I am traumatised, depressed, angry and frustrated,” she said, trying to hold back tears.
“I cry myself to sleep every night while she’s enjoying her life.”
Kisten’s family, however, said the sentence was “too harsh”.
Crying, her paternal grandmother who had raised Kisten said her grandchild was not the evil monster she had been portrayed to be.
“She had a hard life, but she is a good child. She went to church and she really loved her stepfather,” she said.