BURNABY, B.C. -- Holidays have been the hardest for the family of Nicole Porciello. Carmine Porciello doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to his little sister not being around anymore.

“When you sit down for a family dinner, it’s hard not to notice her seat is empty,” he told CTV News Vancouver on Sunday. “Where she would have been, she’s not there.”

Porciello, also known as Nicole Hasselmann, died in November 2018 after being thrown out of a vehicle along Barnet Highway in Burnaby.

According to an agreed statement of facts, the SUV was crashed deliberately by Jan Poepl, her on-again, off-again boyfriend for some seven years.

In the two hours before the crash, Poepl stabbed Porciello at least 47 times with two knives as she sat in the passenger seat.

Porciello, 34, was the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a special education assistant at Templeton Secondary School in Vancouver.

When asked to describe his sister, Carmine remembered her as an eternal optimist.

“She always saw the best in everything, and always tried to make the best of every situation.”

However, optimism is not something Porciello’s loved ones are feeling right now. Poepl, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in February, is set to be sentenced on April 13. He’ll be given an automatic life sentence, but parole eligibility will be decided by the judge. Defence is asking for the minimum of 10 years before he can apply for parole, while Crown is seeking 15 years. For Porciello’s family, neither of those are good enough.

“I don’t think any number is enough, but if 25 is the maximum, I think that’s what he should be getting,” says Carmine Porciello.

Given Poepl’s history of abusive and jealous behaviour towards Nicole, her cousin Gina Iuliano feels he should have been charged and convicted of first-degree murder, which brings with it no chance of parole for 25 years.

“We have somebody who is not even 40 years old who, in the worst case scenario, could be out when he’s 50 or 55,” says Iuliano. “That is unacceptable.”

In the week leading up to the sentencing, Porciello’s friends and family have launched a social media campaign highlighting the voids left by Nicole’s death, and asking whether the punishment will fit the crime.

“We can’t have people like this walking our streets,” says Iuliano. “We can’t have precedent like this, showing that a vicious crime has a sentence so low that it makes it easy for anyone to do this crime.”

After Poepl stabbed Porciello dozens of times, the court heard, he paid bills and even made online purchases. Instead of calling 911, he used his cell phone to record a video of the two of them.

Carmine Porciello points to the sheer brutality of his sister’s killing as justification for a lengthy sentence before parole eligibility. He hopes the judge will make an example out of Poepl.

“I was one of the naïve people who thought this could never happen to me and my family, but, tomorrow it could be someone else,” he said. “It could be someone you love. Now, they’ll use this case as a precedent.”

Meanwhile, Iuliano is asking the public to share the campaign posts widely, not only to draw attention to the sentencing, but to the larger issue of domestic violence.

“The only way we can eradicate this is through education,” Iuliano says. “The education of our children, parents, and family members to see the signs and triggers. It’s femicide. It’s violence against women, and it has to stop.”