The death of five-year-old Ethan Yellowbird, the boy who was killed when three youths opened fire on a house in Hobbema, Alta. has caused his grandmother to lose her faith in "the goodness of most people."
"Losing him to such idiotic, thoughtless violence has been such a trial," Deborah Buffalo said during her victim impact statement in a Wetaskiwin, Alta. courtroom on Wednesday.
Ethan was sleeping in his father's home on the Samson Cree First Nation early on July 11, 2011, when bullets sprayed the home. He was shot in the head and died.
The teenage boys, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in November. The court is hearing victim impact statements and arguments as part of a sentencing hearing on Wednesday.
Today court heard all three have lived troubled lives fueled by drugs, alcohol and membership in gangs on the reserve.
According to the agreed statement of facts, the oldest youth, then 17, used a rifle to fire a shot over the house.
He handed the gun to the other boys, then 16 and 13, who fired two shots each into the house.
"One of the shots fired at the house hit Ethan Yellowbird," the court document stated. However, it isn’t clear which teen fired the shot that killed the little boy.
Crown prosecutor Trent Wilson called the slaying "a heinous crime" and urged the judge to remember the victim.
"This planned and deliberate act in the darkness of the night with a loaded firearm ... demands real justice," Wilson said.
On Wednesday the teens all stood and apologized to Yellowbird's family.
The oldest, now 19 and with a child of his own, stood in the prisoner's box and said in a quiet voice, "I'm sorry for what I did. Sorry for what happened...I've learned a lot from it."
The other two teens made similar apologies, but Ethan's mother Ashley Yellowbird doubted their sincerity.
"I thought it was about time that they actually apologized," she said. "Sincere? The first two boys as you've seen, their backs were actually turned to the family. Only one actually looked.
"They're the only ones that know if they're really sincere or not."
The boys' remorse also rang hollow for Buffalo.
"There's not only us that are angry at him," she said. "A lot of people are angry in the community because a little boy got killed."
Wilson is asking for the maximum sentence allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act — two years in custody and one year of community supervision.
That still wouldn't be enough to satisfy Ethan's mother.
"It's not nearly enough for taking my son away," Ashley Yellowbird said. "It doesn't even come close to the life they took away from us. Even three years, the max is nothing compared to what they should get."
The defence lawyers are recommending little or no time in jail given the time the teens have already served.
The judge will return with the sentences on May 10.
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