NORTH DELTA - The young man who pleaded guilty to murdering North Delta teenager Laura Szendrei apologized to her family, friends and the community at large Wednesday during an emotionally charged sentencing hearing at Surrey provincial court.
"I ruined the lives of so many people," he said. "I robbed the community of its sense of safety."
"I'm truly, truly sorry."
Lawyers are arguing whether the killer, whose identity is shielded by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, should be sentenced as a youth or as an adult.
He was just shy of his 18th birthday when he murdered 15-year-old Szendrei in September 2010, striking her over the head at least three times with a metal pipe as she struggled to escape from him along a path in North Delta's Mackie Park. Originally charged with first-degree murder, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. See the Szendrei story in photos here.
Laura's mom, Rachael Szendrei, sobbed as her daughter's killer read his letter out loud.
"Their pain and sadness must be unbearable," he said, using words like pathetic, selfish, coward and evil to describe his conduct.
"I never sought out the proper help I needed," he told the court. "I'm so sorry for what I did to this woman."
He apologized for terrorizing North Delta.
"I wish that I could rewind time and take back that day," he said. "I'm not going to ask for forgiveness because I truly don't deserve it.
"I deserve to go to prison," he said.
If sentenced as an adult, his sentence will be life in prison without eligibility to apply for parole for seven years. If sentenced as a youth, he faces a seven-year sentence, with a maximum four of those years to be served in prison and the remainder in the community, under supervision.
The young man has shown little emotion during the court proceedings, but hung his head and dabbed his eyes with a Kleenex as his mother addressed the court by video.
Rachael Szendrei could not see the killer's mother as the television screen was aimed at the judge, Justice Robin Baird, but she could hear her and sobbed as she listened. The young man's mother also sobbed and her words were often inaudible as she catalogued her son's school-related achievements.
"He knows I love him with every fibre of my heart," she said.
The young man's father apologized to the Szendrei family, their friends and North Delta at large.
"We all feel so sad what happened that fall day," he said. "I'm so sorry.
"How could my little boy have done this?
"It was so out of character for him," he said.
The killer's dad said he didn't know at the time the struggles his son was having and said he wishes the teen would have sought his advice.
"He knows I will be there for him no matter what. I love my boy," he said. "He has told me so many times how truly sorry he is."
To the Szendreis, he said, "I can't even imagine the pain and suffering you are going through.
"I ask for your forgiveness," he sobbed. "I pray that your heart will heal in time."
The court also heard from the killer's brother and sister, who both recalled fond childhood memories with him.
"I love him and support him no matter what," his sister said.
His brother echoed that.
"I'd never trade him as a brother with anyone else," his brother told the court.
The sentencing hearing resumes Thursday morning, when the lawyers will begin their final submissions.
The hearing continues. More updates to come.
In response to Laura's death, friends and family organized the Laura Szendrei 5 & 10K Walk, Run and Roll, an event that has raised more than $45,000 in its first two years. The money goes to the Laura Szendrei Memorial Scholarship Foundation Society, which provides scholarships to students in the Delta school district. This year, organizers are still looking for volunteers. The event is set for Oct. 6 this year. Sign up here.
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