Forensic crews investigate the scene after a 14-year-old boy shot and killed his 43-year-old adoptive mother and five-year-old adoptive sister, in the family’s St. Lazare home in August 2007.
He was 14 years old when he shot and killed his adoptive mother and five-year-old sister. In two days, his jail sentence for that crime will be done and he’ll be eligible for release.
Once assessed as a high risk to reoffend violently, and a threat to any woman he entered a relationship with if he didn’t get treatment, the thought of his release brings fear to the victims’ family.
"We’re worried that (he) will reoffend to one of us, the females … our daughters, our nieces, our female cousins. Any females that (he) has had any contact with in the past," says a sister of the slain mother.
However, defence lawyer Bob Harrison says he believes his client is ready to re-enter society. He has received treatment and counselling, and conditions are in place to protect the community.
"He has been treated, and he will continue to be treated," Harrison said, adding the offender will be closely monitored.
Because he was sentenced as a youth, even though the killer is now 21 years old, he can’t be identified. The woman and girl he murdered also can’t be named.
At 14 years old, he shot and killed his 43-year-old adoptive mother and five-year-old sister, who was also adopted, in the family’s St. Lazare home in August 2007.
After spending almost three years in remand custody, the young killer was sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.
At a sentencing hearing in June 2010 — held to determine whether he’d be sentenced as an adult or youth — he testified that he’d shot his adoptive mom after years of physical abuse at her hands. However, some of the woman’s family testified that they hadn’t seen abuse.
The teen broke down on the stand and couldn’t explain why he shot his sister, and only said he didn’t mean to kill her. A psychologist suggested the girl was shot out of rage.
The boy was assessed as a high risk to reoffend violently. An expert testified that, unless the teen’s anger was resolved, he would pose a threat to any woman that he enters into a relationship with in the future.
Crown attorneys Jim Ross and Joanne Maynard argued that the youth should be sentenced as an adult, a sentence that would bring life in prison with parole eligibility in five to seven years. A parole board would decide when he would be released, and he’d be under the board’s supervision for life.
Justice Robert Cummings, however, agreed with Harrison and chose to sentence the shooter as a youth. He received the maximum sentence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — four years in jail, followed by three years supervision in the community.
The sentence featured an Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision plan, which Cummings said would be the best way to prevent re-offending when the young man was released. One of the primary features of IRCS is access to a psychologist and treatment team.
Ross and Maynard argued that there would be little or no supervision once the youth sentence expired.
As of Sunday, the offender — who can’t be identified under the YCJA — will have served his four years in jail. Some of it at the Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie, and the remainder at the Headingley Correctional Centre.
In Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday, Cummings set the conditions for the three-year portion of the offender’s community supervision.
Now a young man, he would be released from jail this weekend except that he’s also in custody on allegations that he assaulted a fellow inmate at the Headingley Correctional Centre in January and he hasn’t applied for bail.
If he doesn’t receive bail, he may be in custody at least until his September trial date, and potentially longer if he’s convicted of the assault and receives a jail sentence.
Regardless, when he’s eventually released, the plan is for him to live at a highly supervised forensic psychological services home in Winnipeg that is staffed for 24 hours per day. There, he’ll continue to work with a psychologist and see a youth worker regularly.
He’ll be on a curfew and his whereabouts monitored. He can leave the home — to search for work, for example — but would have to check in and out with staff.
If he breaches his conditions, a judge may suspend his community supervision order and he may serve at least a portion of the remainder of his sentence in jail.
Included in the conditions ordered by Cummings on Thursday were orders that the offender have no weapons, no contact with the slain mother’s family, and that he not attend St. Lazare or Brandon, where many of the victim’s relatives reside.
"There is some protection here offered to the victim’s family, and as well there is protection offered to society as a whole as (the offender) will be under a very strict supervision in the community," Cummings said.
Despite some setbacks, Cummings said, the offender has taken strides. He has taken counselling, and generally responded to treatment in jail.
"I expect that he will continue to make strides once he is released into society," Cummings said.
Court also heard that the offender has changed his name and a career plan that wasn’t specified.
Meanwhile, the victims’ family says they still struggle with anger, fear, sadness and unanswered questions.
Interestingly, one of the conditions of Cummings’ order offers a chance to get answers. An exception to the no-contact order to allow a family member to meet face-to-face with the offender in mediation.
The sister of the murdered woman says it’s an option she’s always wanted to pursue. To ask: What happened the day of the shootings, and why? Why would he kill her sister and little niece?
She says the family has never heard a satisfactory answer for why the girl was murdered.
"I wanted to sit down with (him) to go over what happened that day, to try to bring closure for myself," she said. "I also wanted to see whether I was looking in a cold-blooded murderer’s eyes, or somebody who’s got remorse ... a lost soul, or a devil."
» Twitter: @IanHitchen
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 25, 2014