05/22/2015 12:49 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT

Julie Paskall Case: Yosef Gopaul Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter

Darryl Dyck/CP
SURREY, B.C. - The family of a British Columbia woman whose motto was "money isn't worth dying for" wept as a 28-year-old man was sentenced for manslaughter after blindsiding her with a rock to the head outside a neighbourhood ice arena.

Provincial court heard Yosef Gopaul intended to snatch Julie Paskall's purse in Surrey on Dec. 29, 2013, as she waited to pick up her 16-year-old son after he'd refereed at a minor hockey game.

The 53-year-old woman died in hospital two days later.

Yosef was charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge on Friday, when he was handed a combined 12-year prison sentence for her death and a robbery at a bus stop two weeks earlier.

Details of Paskall's death, which sparked terror in the community, were revealed in an agreed statement of facts.

Paskall's relatives then took turns tearfully describing the impact of her death.

"Mr. Gopaul, when you attacked my wife you took away the thread that held our family together," said Al Paskall.

His daughter Rhiannon, who has cerebral palsy, said her mother helped her learn to walk, talk and believe in herself despite her disability.

"My mom was truly my best friend in the entire world," said the 29-year-old, the eldest of three children. "I would give anything to have a cup of tea with her and play a game of Scrabble while listening to Fleetwood Mac."

A cousin and a sister-in-law both said the slight woman often lectured family members to just hand over their purse if they were ever held up.

But court heard Paskall had no opportunity to submit when she was struck by Gopaul, who was "desperate" for money.

"I'm sorry for the pain I caused," Gopaul told court.

"I never thought in a million years the blood of someone would be on my hands," he said.

"I did not know her, but what I assume is she was a great wife, mother and friend. I know you most probably hate me, but I just have to let you know how truly sorry I am."

Gopaul said he'll be seeking rehabilitation in prison, and pledged to earn his high school diploma.

"Maybe even somehow, who knows, I may be able to help kids who struggle with anger and aggression, maybe be a better person and stop the cycle of crime."

An agreed statement of facts states Gopaul did not intend to kill Paskall.

"When asked how hard he threw the rock at Mrs. Paskall, he said, 'Hard enough to knock her out,' which is all he wanted to do,'" the statement reads.

With the time Gopaul has already spent behind bars awaiting trial, he'll serve about 10 and a half years.

An autopsy showed Paskall died of cardiac arrhythmia after she was hit once and fell hard onto the pavement. She was vulnerable because she had a heart disease.

A rock the size of a grapefruit was discovered near her body. DNA from Paskall and an unknown man was discovered on the rock.

That DNA prompted a police operation that led to Gopaul, who confessed both crimes to an undercover officer.

"It was a huge event in the community and people continue to feel the effects of the fear that was caused by Mr. Gopaul's actions," said Crown lawyer Wendy Stephen.

Court heard Gopaul has 29 criminal convictions going back to age 16 and that six of those were violent crimes.

His lawyer said Gopaul was traumatized at age seven when his mother jumped from an 11th-storey window to escape a rape by three men in an Ottawa apartment building.

He moved to Surrey from Ontario just eight weeks before attacking Paskall and was arrested in May last year.

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