The lawyer for a man who murdered his ex-wife by stabbing her to death as she cradled their toddler is asking for a shorter non parole period, saying it was a "snap decision" to drive three hours and stab her 18 times.

Rotorua farm-worker Ephraim Joseph Beazley, 33, pleaded guilty last year to murdering Xi Wang at her Flat Bush home in a brutal but calculated attack.

He was sentenced to the standard life imprisonment, and was given a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Wang, 34, was holding the estranged couple's 2-year-old son in her arms when Beazley murdered her on December 10, 2018.

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He had been estranged from Wang after the pair met in November 2014 and married six months later.

The couple moved to Rotorua, where Beazley worked as a farmhand, but the relationship only lasted until September 2015 and Wang moved to Auckland.

Soon after Wang discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to a son.

But Beazley began to harbour increasing resentment towards Wang, partly because he had to pay child support.

Xi Wang was murdered at her home in Flat Bush in December 2018. Photo / Supplied
Xi Wang was murdered at her home in Flat Bush in December 2018. Photo / Supplied

He contemplated taking his own life but decided against it.

On the night of the murder, he drove to Wang's house and knocked on the door just before 10pm.

She opened the door, holding her son in her arms.

"[Beazley] attacked the victim without speaking, striking at her throat with his hunting knife," the police summary reads.

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"She managed to block the strike so he stabbed her in the side instead.

"This was awkward for him because of the dressing gown the victim was wearing - so he attacked her legs."

Beazley then stabbed Wang several times in both legs.

He also stabbed her genitals, causing her to slump forward, and allowing Beazley to grab her by the back of the head.

"He stabbed her several times in the neck, causing her to fall to the ground," the summary reads.

Beazley realised he had done enough to kill and left his son in his dying mum's arms.

He then drove away, abandoned his car, and called police to admit what he'd done.

Wang was rushed to hospital in a critical condition and underwent emergency surgery, but died a couple of hours after the attack.

A post-mortem found she had been stabbed 18 times.

Beazley's case was today heard in the Court of Appeal, where his lawyer, Adam Simperingham, said the non-parole period of 17 years was "manifestly unjust" when considering Beazley's mental health.

He said the decision to murder Wang was a "snap decision".

Justice Murray Gilbert questioned how it could be a snap decision.

"You drive for three hours thinking about what you're going to do," he said.

Justice Rebecca Ellis also appeared to disagree with Simperingham's submission.

"Stabbing someone 18 times is not a snap decision, is it?" she said.

Simperingham said a psychiatric report showed Beazley had a "rigid and concrete thinking process" which was behind him carrying out the brutal attack hours after making the decision.

He said the report also detailed Beazley's depression, and the court should have taken a "compassionate" approach to sentencing while factoring in Beazley's "state of mind" at the time of the attack.

He said it would be open to the court to reduce the non parole period by two or three years.

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz