SURREY, B.C. - A young man who pleaded guilty to murdering a 15-year-old girl in a daylight attack has apologized in court for the brutal crime he said not only destroyed two families, but also struck terror into an entire community.
The man, who can’t be named because he was 17 at the time of the murder, pleaded guilty last year to killing Szendrei in a suburban park after failing to subdue and rape the teenager three years ago.
At his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, the man, now 21 years old, stood and read from a letter, apologizing for causing unbearable pain and sadness to the Szendrei family on Sept. 25, 2010.
“On that horrible day, I regretfully took the life of Laura Szendrei and destroyed her family,” he said. “I caused terror in the Delta community, especially the friends and family of Laura Szendrei. I robbed the community of its sense of safety and its peacefulness.”
The man said he deserves to go to prison. He also apologized to his parents, who he said blame themselves for what happened, and who now “live in exile” because of him.
“I’m not going to ask for forgiveness because I truly don’t deserve it,” he said.
“No you don’t,” said Szendrei’s mother Rachael from the courtroom gallery as she sobbed.
Szendrei’s father was present for only parts of the man’s apology.
The accused, who stood in the prisoner’s box wearing a collared white shirt, called himself a pathetic coward who never intended to kill anyone.
“I was so depressed and feeling so alone at the time, but in no way should I resort to something as terrible as attempt to commit rape,” he said, wiping his eyes with a tissue once he finished the letter.
The court has heard the man was a victim of bullying. A forensic psychologist testified he suffered from paralyzing anxiety around girls, and that it was this anxiety that led him to attack not only Szendrei, but three other women before her.
Both the man’s parents appeared by video link on Thursday, expressing their love and support for their son despite his crime. His father also offered condolences to the Szendrei family.
“To Mr. And Mrs. Szendrei,” the man’s father read from a letter, his voice wavering. “I know there is nothing you want to hear from me. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering ... I understand you may hate [my son] and you may hate our family, but I am truly, truly sorry.”
As both of the man’s parents read their letters, their testimony occasionally broken by sobs, Szendrei’s mother Rachael wept and buried her face in her hands.
The man’s father said the crime shocked the entire family, as he had taught all three of his children to be kind to others. The accused is the eldest of his children, and was always a quiet and shy person who never fought with anyone, the father said.
His mother, crying as she read, also said he is a good brother and friend. He enjoys various sports and video games, and worked hard in school, she said.
The man’s father said he had no idea “how very messed up” his son’s life was.
“I wish he had come to me for advice at home,” he said. “I understand now he did not know how to ask for help from anyone with all the things he was trying to deal with. If only (he had asked for help,) he wouldn’t be here today, and Laura would still be with us.”
The man’s father said his son understands what he has done, that he wants to take responsibility for his actions, and that he is no longer the “confused boy” that he used to be.
Defence counsel Donna Turko also read out letters written by the man’s brother and sister, both of whom recalled fond memories of growing up with him.
Officials with provincial and federal correctional services also appeared in court Thursday, as did a representative with an organization called Long Term Inmates Now in the Community Society.
Deputy Warden Harry Draaisma, with the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, said the accused would need the same secure custody setting in prison as those given to high-profile offenders such as serial killer Robert Pickton.
The nature and the notoriety of the man’s crime means he would need to be isolated from the rest of the inmate population for his own safety, Draaisma told the court.
Judge Robin Baird is deciding whether to sentence the man as an adult or as a youth.
If sentenced as an adult, the man would receive life in prison with eligibility for parole after seven years.
If he receives a youth sentence, he would get seven years, with four years served behind bars and the remainder served in the community.
Szendrei’s parents refused to comment following the hearing.