SURREY, B.C. - The parents of Laura Szendrei, the 15-year-old girl who was fatally beaten in a Vancouver-area park two years ago, sat sobbing in a courtroom gallery Monday as the young man accused in their daughter's death listened to the Crown outline the evidence against him.
The 19-year-old murder suspect, who can't be named because he was 17 when Szendrei died, appeared in a court in Surrey, B.C., for the start of his preliminary hearing. The evidence presented is banned from publication.
As the young man entered the court the gallery filled with Szendrei's parents and more than two dozen supporters and members of public let out a collective gasp.
The girl's parents, Rachael and Mike Szendrei, sat in the second row, listening to the hearing through fits of tears. Not long after the hearing started, the father left the courtroom crying before returning a short time later.
The teenager, whose light-brown hair was cropped short and was wearing a green shirt, sat expressionless in the prisoner's dock, looking down at the floor for most of the hearing. At least once, he used his shirt to wipe his eyes.
The teen suspect was arrested in February 2011.
Five months earlier, in September 2010, Szendrei was severely beaten in a popular park in her hometown of Delta, a quiet suburban community south of Vancouver.
At the time, police said Szendrei was headed to a wooded area of the park to meet some friends when she was attacked. The park features several sports fields — which were busy with activity on a sunny Saturday — as well as a forested area cut through with walking paths.
The girl's friends heard Szendrei screaming and ran to help, according to police statements and accounts from eyewitnesses who spoke to reporters.
Szendrei died in hospital the following day.
The preliminary hearing in provincial court is expected to continue for several weeks. The trial in B.C. Supreme Court likely won't happen until next year, prosecutor Wendy Stephen said outside the courtroom.
At an earlier hearing, Stephen indicated she would be seeking an adult sentence if the teen is found guilty.
During a mid-day break on Monday, both of Szendrei's parents declined to speak with reporters.
Mike Szendrei walked past television cameras in tears. Rachael Szendrei said only, "I'm not up to it today, I'm really not."
Szendrei's death inspired an annual fundraising walk to raise money for a scholarship in her name. The second annual Laura Szendrei Memorial Walk, Run and Roll was held this past May.
A memorial garden at Szendrei's former high school was unveiled during this year's fundraising walk.