Jailed killer had strangled before
A man who strangled his ex-partner before beating her to death with a rock has been jailed for a minimum of 17 years.
During the sentencing in the High Court in Auckland, it was revealed Gene Hepana, 40, had at least five convictions for assaulting women. He had strangled a previous partner at her home in 2002 in an eerily similar incident.
On December 23, he killed his former partner and mother-of-one Jasmine Cooper, 26, at her home in the Auckland suburb of Te Hana.
The pair had been in a relationship for about six months before Cooper's death, but they separated after Hepana had tried to strangle her.
He was trespassed from the property, but in the weeks before her death he called and texted Cooper almost daily, the court was told.
On the night of the murder, Hepana was drinking at his sister's house in Warkworth and at 1am asked his father for a ride to Cooper's house in Coronation St.
He met her at the house and spoke to her briefly before being told to leave.
He returned soon after and the victim saw him outside.
She sent him a text telling him to go away, and frightened she texted her sister for help saying: "He's here and he won't go, he's creeping around my place."
Hepana grabbed Cooper as she stood on a porch and strangled her into submission, Justice Graham Lang said.
He picked up a large rock and dragged her to a spot beside the house, out of sight of the road.
Hepana again strangled Cooper, this time into unconsciousness, then beat her about the head and face with a rock until she was dead.
Justice Lang said it was unclear how many times she had been struck but confirmed it must have been "numerous occasions" because of the outcome.
The public gallery was packed with 30 of Cooper's whanau who glared at Hepana throughout the hearing and cried while the details of the offending were read.
Her sister, Crystal Cooper, who now looked after Jasmine's son, Xavier, apologised for not being there when she was most needed.
She said Xavier had been heavily traumatised by the loss of his mother.
"He has bad dreams about you chasing his mum," she told Hepana.
The offender had previously lived with the Cooper family until his relationship with Jasmine had broken down.
"I can't believe you touched my kids with the hands you used to take my sister's life," Crystal said.
A report compiled by probation noted Hepana showed no remorse and no insight into the impact his crime had.
When he was led a way, a lone voice told him to "rot in hell".
Outside court, Detective Senior Sergeant Brett Batty told the family how overwhelmed he had been by their respect and restraint.