Over eight years after a 27-year-old pizza delivery man from Dartmouth was shot dead while on the job, members of his family have finally received some form of closure.
In Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Wednesday, Randy Desmond Riley was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 15 years for his role in the murder of Donald Chad Smith.
Smith, a father of two young girls at the time, was fatally shot by a shotgun on Oct. 23, 2010 while attempting to make a delivery at 15 Joseph Young Street.
The court has heard that Smith was lured to his death by Riley and his accomplice Nathan Johnson, who made the phone call to Panada Pizza, where Smith had recently started working.
Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
Riley was initially charged with first-degree murder but was convicted of the lesser charge by a 12-member jury after 29 hours of deliberations.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility set at a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 25.
‘This is not fair’
On Wednesday, the court heard five victim impact statements by members of Smith’s family, all which said they remain severely impacted by the loss of Chad.
“The crime committed against by brother was senseless, sickening, and against all values in life and humanity,” said Devin Smith, Chad’s brother. “Purposely setting up to take someone’s life has a rippling effect on so many people.”
“My brother did nothing to deserve this, my family did nothing to deserve this, and I did nothing to deserve this.”
Chad’s mother, clutching a framed photograph of her son, also delivered a victim impact statement. She began by displaying his photograph to the gallery, followed by a tattoo on her arm featuring Chad’s name.
“This is all I have left,” Louise Donnely said.
WATCH: Childhood friend of Randy Desmond Riley testifies at first-degree murder trial
Donnelly says Chad was going to school and working as a pizza delivery man with hopes of providing a comfortable life for his children.
“This was not God’s plan for Chad or my family … and this makes me want to scream from the top of my lungs that this is not fair,” she said through tears.
“This crime gave my family a life sentence.”
After the victim impact statements were read, Riley seized the opportunity to address the court – and Smith’s family – in his own words.
“No matter how I feel about the outcome of this trial … you’ve lost a loved one and I want you to know that I acknowledge that and I believe that to be the most important thing,” Riley said, speaking to the Smith family in the first two rows of the gallery.
“I’m deeply sorry for your loss, but I want you to try and, if you can, objectively think about what took place last night.”
Riley went on to repeat his claim of innocence and that he was not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“To the family, I had no involvement and I am not involved in this man’s death,” Riley concluded.
Chad Smith’s family could be heard scoffing after Riley’s statement was complete.
The centre question around Wednesday’s sentencing hearing was how long Randy Riley would have to serve in prison before he can be eligible for parole.
Crown prosecutor Melanie Perry recommended that Riley’s parole be set at 17 to 18 years, citing the severity of the crime, examples of crimes that were similar in nature, as well as the 31 violent incidents Riley has been involved in during his five-and-a-half years in custody.
Riley’s defence attorney Trevor McGuigan, however, sought for parole to be set at the 10-year minimum.
To begin the sentencing hearing, McGuigan introduced Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) professor El Jones to speak as a character witness. Jones said she was teaching at the Nova Scotia Community College’s African Canadian Transition program when she met Riley, who was taking classes.
Jones said Riley was an “excellent student” who at the end of the year was named the class’s valedictorian. She also is currently a professor for Riley at MSVU, and says she gave Riley an A+ in one of his first semester sociology classes this year.
Justice James Chipman considered Jones’ character witness testimony, as well as the victim impact statements and a cultural assessment that examined Riley’s background.
Justice Chipman also considered recommendations made by the jurors following the verdict. One juror recommended Riley be eligible for parole after 10 years, two said 15, one said 20, and eight did not make a recommendation.
In the end, Chipman determined that 10 years was not enough and 17 to 18 years was too high.
“Two young girls have lost their father,” Justice Chipman told the court. “Family members have lost a loved one. A mother is without a life partner. Parents have lost a son.”
“Without question, the entire expanded Smith family has been devastated by the senseless death of Chad Smith.”
Chipman concluded with a message for Randy Riley.
“Mr. Riley, I sincerely wish that whatever caused you to commit these horrific crimes, has gone away or will somehow subside. You are a man with promise and potential,” he said.
“You owe it to yourself and your family to put the life of crime behind you.”