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Crown seeks maximum penalty for teen in group-home killing

'This was a planned and deliberate murder of an unarmed 15-year-old boy when he was at his most vulnerable — asleep in his bed,' Crown tells the court
2019-02-22 Penvill Trail RB 2
Barrie police forensic identification officers prepare to enter a home on Penvill Trail in the city's south end in this photo from February 2019. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday files

Editor's note: The following story contains graphic descriptions heard in court which may be unsuitable for some readers. 

One after another, those who were affected by the brutal killing of a 15-year-old boy at a Barrie group home three years ago each told the court heart-wrenching accounts of its impact on them.

“My son will never turn 16,” the victim's mother said Thursday during the sentencing hearing for his killer at the Barrie courthouse.

Her son was fatally stabbed during a prolonged attack while living at a south-end group home on Feb. 19, 2019. 

A teenager also living in the Penvill Trail home, now 18, had earlier pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. His identity is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Naming the deceased is also prohibited by the courts.

Following the hearing, the victim's mother told BarrieToday that the system in which she temporarily placed her son is in dire need of an overhaul.

“The children’s welfare system should be changed. Because of the one boy who didn’t get the help he needed, desperately needed. Instead of that, he was just shuffling from house to house because he wasn’t suitable for any of those houses,” she said.

“If he would have received that treatment, that help, nothing would happen.”

The parents of the dead boy, along with the foster father, have launched civil lawsuits related to the attack. They are also hoping Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner will call an inquest into the killing.

Meanwhile, nothing less than the maximum penalty allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act would do, Crown attorney Neil Riley told the court Thursday.

In a joint submission with the defence, the Crown suggested a 10-year sentence, six of which would be in custody and four under community supervision. Riley said there should be no credit for the more than three years since the teenager has been in custody following his arrest the day of the killing.

“A lesser sentence would be insufficient,” the Crown told the court. “This was a planned and deliberate murder of an unarmed 15-year-old boy when he was at his most vulnerable  asleep in his bed.”

After that initial attack in the victim’s first-floor bedroom, court heard the teenager pursued him on the second floor as the boy sought help from his foster father.

The attack was so severe that the victim suffered a punctured lung, as well as wounds to his liver and neck, breaking off the handles of the two knives his killer used.

Earlier, court heard that the 15-year-old boy had never been in trouble with police before. His attacker, a permanent Crown ward since 2017, had been moved to Barrie from the Hamilton area in 2018 because of behavioural issues.

Problems ensued after the bedroom of the foster father was broken into where he had been keeping medications, scissors and other sharp objects locked up in his room. The knives, which were later used in the attack, were taken from his second-storey room.

According to the agreed statement of facts that were earlier read into the court record, the teenager thought the 15-year-old boy ratted him out.

“He (the attacking teenager) had already accrued a long history of violence and offending,” including arson, threatening and assault, Riley told the court. The teenager was also on release for a violent offence at the time of the attack.

The dead boy’s mother told the court she thinks of the years she had with her son as if he’s still with her with the memories swirling.

Another boy living in the group home said he continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the attack and became paranoid at night, thinking someone was inside his home.

“I’ve lost friends because of it,” he said. “It’s all too much to handle.”

Reading from their victim impact statements, the victim’s stepmother and the parents of the young foster father all spoke of the loss and trauma the event has had on their lives and those close to them. All told, 11 victim impact statements were filed with the court.

Crown attorney Lynn Shirreffs read out the statement provided by the foster father, who said his life has been forever altered as a result of the early morning attack that winter day. He, too, suffers from PTSD and said he has had thoughts of taking his own life.

Holding a full-time job, he told the court, is difficult and he is overwhelmed with mental exhaustion, which impedes his ability to perform basic life tasks.

The teenager, who remained cuffed in the prisoner’s box throughout Thursday’s appearance, returns to court for sentencing on July 26.