The man who brutally murdered 15-year-old Laura Szendrei in a Delta, B.C. park three years ago has been sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least seven years.
The 21-year-old man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last year for beating Szendrei to death in September 2010.
The man cannot be identified because his lawyer plans to apply for a publication ban in the case.
Dozens of Szendrei’s family members, friends, reporters and the public packed the provincial courtroom in Surrey Friday to hear whether the killer would be sentenced as a child or as an adult.
As Judge Robin Baird read the decision to impose an adult sentence, applause erupted in the public gallery.
The judge said a lengthy sentence was needed for Szendrei’s killer, and a youth sentence was not appropriate. He said the accused showed a level of maturity appropriate to a person on the verge of adulthood and was adequately socialized.
“There was a significant degree of planning and deliberation. Even if I accept that the accused left his home without the intention to kill someone, it was clear that he was resolved to commit rape and prepared to use a significant degree of violence to facilitate that intention or, if he was unsuccessful, that his victim would be incapable of bearing witness against him,” Baird said.
Grisly details of the murder and motive were also heard in court Friday, and several family members left the room for brief periods in tears.
The attack happened on Sept. 25, when the killer was just days away from his 18th birthday.
Szendrei was on her way to meet friends in broad daylight and was walking through a forested path when she was attacked.
Friends heard her screams and found her severely beaten. She was taken to hospital and died the next morning.
As friends and family were mourning Szendrei, the killer went on a fishing trip to Mexico and wore the same clothes he had on during the attack. He then threw out the clothes after getting fish blood on them, the courtroom heard.
The court heard evidence that the attack was sexually motivated and the killer had planned to rape Szendrei, but when she screamed he beat her over the head with a metal pipe.
The judge said the killer had attacked other females on three previous occasions in Burns Bog.
The man was arrested after an undercover police sting involving the video game Call of Duty.
Police said he admitted to the previous three attacks during the operation and later told psychiatrists that he was driven by his own anxiety about a lack of sexual experience.
The killer also told doctors he believed if he knocked his victim out, she wouldn’t remember that he tried to rape her when she woke up.
The judge concluded the defence was not credible and handed down an adult sentence. With time served, he will be eligible to apply for parole on February 20, 2018, according to Crown prosecutors.
Had he been sentenced as a youth, he would have received a seven-year sentence, with the first four years served in custody and the remaining three served in the community.
After the sentence was read, the killer stood up and said he was sorry.
Szendrei’s family told reporters outside the courtroom that justice had been done.
“It’s for Laura,” said Laura’s father Mike. “The judge did the right thing and maybe the rest of you parents out there don’t have to be scared that this guy is crawling around.”
Szendrei’s mother, Rachael, thanked the judge for the sentence.
“I’m just glad that this is over and that he’s going where he needs to go and he can sit long and hard for the rest of his life,” she said. “It’s just despicable. How could he even live with himself.”
With files from the Canadian Press