One of the men accused in the fatal shooting of a Surrey SFU student nearly four-and-a-half years ago has pleaded guilty.
Gurjinder “Gary” Dhaliwal pleaded guilty Thursday morning in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his ex-girlfriend, Maple Batalia. He was initially charged with first-degree murder.
Batalia, 19, was gunned down in a parkade outside SFU Surrey after a late-night study session. She died later in hospital of three gunshot wounds to the torso and left arm. She also had 11 knife wounds on her head.
Crown and defence lawyers presented an agreed statement of facts following Dhaliwal’s guilty plea.
In it, they detailed the weeks before Batalia’s murder, when Dhaliwal became obsessive. The couple had broken up in August 2011, but Dhaliwal did not want to end the relationship and proceeded to call and text her thousands of times from different phones in the weeks that followed.
Two weeks before the murder, Dhaliwal confronted men he saw with Batalia at a nightclub, and sent her more than 300 texts that night.
He confronted Batalia again on Sept. 24 when she was having coffee with a male friend. Dhaliwal tried to convince her to reconcile but the meeting ended with him pushing her to the ground. He was arrested later that day and ordered to stay away from her.
On Sept. 26, armed with a knife and a gun he obtained to confront Batalia’s friend, he went to the SFU Surrey campus in a rented white Dodge Charger. Bedi went in and saw Batalia, but not the guy friend, so they left.
Late on Sept. 27, the two men again drove to SFU. Dhaliwal parked and Bedi again went in and this time, saw both Batalia and her male friend. Dhaliwal, the court heard, became enraged when he saw the two hug and grabbed his gun. He fired five shots, three of them striking Batalia. He then slashed her on the top and back of her head.
Batalia was alive when police arrived, but succumbed to her injuries in hospital in the early morning hours Sept. 28.
While the knife was found at the scene, the gun was never recovered, said Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephen.
“He was a jealous ex-boyfriend,” said Stephen outside court.
One of the reasons for the stiff sentence, she added, was the ex-couple’s connection.
“This is in the context of a domestic relationship – breaking up. In this country, people are allowed to break up and no does mean no.”
Stephen pointed to the use of a firearm in a public place as aggravating factors.
She said though the case against Dhaliwal was circumstantial, she credited the thorough police investigation. Stephen said police tracked down the suspect vehicle within two days and discovered a shell casing under the hood, which matched the shell casings at the scene at SFU Surrey. Batalia’s blood was later found on the car’s headlight control and driver’s side visor.
A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, with parole eligibility to be set by the judge. Both Crown and defence are recommending Dhaliwal serve 21 years in jail before being eligible to apply for parole.
Dhaliwal’s sentencing is scheduled for Monday morning, when members of Batalia’s family are expected to address the court. While Dhaliwal wanted to be sentenced immediately Thursday morning, Crown prosecutors asked for a postponement until Monday to allow for Batalia’s sister, who is out of the country, to attend.
The trial of Gursimar Singh Bedi, who is charged with manslaughter with a firearm and being an accessory after the fact, is scheduled to begin Monday afternoon.
Dhaliwal was charged, along with Bedi, in late 2012. Batalia’s family and friends wept in court and did not want to speak to media Thursday, but have expressed frustration with delays in the justice process. They plan to petition for court reform.