Michael Cardamone will never be a free man, sentenced to life in jail without parole for the murder of Karen Chetcuti (nee Verbunt).
Friends and family of the Whorouly woman were overcome with tears and hugged each other in the Wangaratta Supreme Court when Justice Lex Lasry handed down his verdict – a landmark decision in Victoria.
Never before had a murderer, who pleaded guilty and did not have prior convictions for murder, been denied hope for eventual release on parole.
“To refuse the fixed minimum term is an exceptional step and is a dreadful punishment, but this was a dreadful crime … Sometimes a crime is so horrific, so cruel and so callous, that a step towards mercy becomes too difficult to take,” Justice Lasry said.
“Your conduct in regards to Ms Chetcuti was extraordinarily vicious, callous and thoroughly unprovoked.
“The crime you committed was quite simply horrifying, depraved and disgusting.”
He doused her with petrol and burned her alive near Lake Buffalo, after he had injected her with an animal tranquilizer and fractured her skull.
Cardamone was also sentenced to eight years’ jail for incitement to murder Eddie George, the Myrtleford man who helped him burn Ms Chetcuti’s car and would have been a key witness in the trial, and three months’ jail for breaching his parole.
Justice Lasry said the gravity of the offence could not be higher and rejected the defence claim that Cardamone felt remorse.
He pointed to the man’s prior conviction for raping a 15-year-old girl in 2005 and a sexual desire for Ms Chetcuti before her death.
“I believed I had ceased to be amazed at the level of violence some men are capable of inflicting on defenceless women, but what you did to Karen Chetcuti – over a number of hours and for no apparent or logical reason – does indeed amaze me,” he said.
“There is nothing to indicate there has been any significant change in your attitudes to women or any insights into your offending.
“I regard your prospects of rehabilitation as virtually non-existent.”
The judge took note of the 13 victim impact statements submitted from the victim’s family and friends, which explained the huge loss they felt after her death and a feeling of no longer being safe in the rural community.
“Ms Chetcuti’s children are particularly vulnerable to the horror of it and will carry it with them for the rest of their lives,” Justice Lasry said.
“It is obvious that your crimes have had an impact on the family of Ms Chetcuti, her friends and colleagues, and in all likelihood the wider Wangaratta district generally. There have been concerns about what you have done because, apart from the sheer violence of your actions, it was so futile and inexplicable.”
Cardamone spent all three days in court this week silent in the dock, mostly keeping his head down to avoid eye contact with Ms Chetcuti’s loved ones, and was quickly ushered out of the courthouse immediately after the sentence was handed down.