Jeanie Fraser clutched her rosary and wiped tears from her eyes as she told a New Westminster court how she feels numb and can’t get to sleep at night now that she knows the “horrible” way her brother died 13 years ago.
“I have a lifetime sentence,” Jeanie wept, after reading her victim impact statement, in which she shared memories of her brother’s immense kindness and generosity, not only with family, but with impoverished neighbourhood kids.
It will be a minimum of 10 years before Gary Johnston, convicted in the 1998 murder of Surrey’s Vic Fraser, is eligible to apply for parole, but Crown prosecutors hope he has to wait much longer.
At a hearing in New Westminster Supreme Court Friday, the Crown asked that Justice Robert Crawford set Johnston’s parole eligibility at between 17 and 21 years.
Crown prosecutor Adam Jantunen argued the cruelty and senselessness of the murder and the impact on the family are aggravating factors, as are Johnston’s likelihood to reoffend, and his lengthy prior and subsequent criminal record (he killed another man in Regina just months after Fraser’s murder).
Vic Fraser, said Jantunen, was a true victim who simply had the “grave misfortune” of visiting his sister’s house on March 10, 1998.
During the trial this spring, the court heard how Johnston was gathering things to steal inside the home of Jeanie Fraser, whom he had met several times before, when Vic walked in. The men, who had also met before, greeted one another, but Johnston grew concerned Vic would become suspicious.
Johnston took serrated knives from the kitchen, went behind Vic and stabbed him nine times in the neck with so much force the blades broke off the handles. The murderer also kicked the victim and broke a pot on his head before stealing his wallet and leaving.
Johnston wasn’t arrested and charged until 11 years after the murder, when he was on parole for the Regina murder. Police lured him into an a fictitious criminal organization in Montreal and Johnston eventually confessed to an undercover officer who was posing as a crime boss.
Defence lawyer Georgia Docolas asked that Johnston’s parole eligibility be set at 10 to 15 years, arguing their was no planning, motive or sophisticated coverup involved in Fraser’s murder. She said Johnston, who has a Grade 10 education and has been sober for the past 12 years, was living a modest life until he was lured into the fake crime group.
By accepting the Crown’s parole request, she told Justice Crawford, Johnston would not be eligible until 2030.
“This is not the worst offense and this is not the worst offender,” said Docolas.
Jeanie said she felt compelled to sell her home in the Bridgeview neighbourhood after her brother’s murder.
“I didn’t only lose a house, I lost a brother – the man who was always there for me unconditionally,” she said.
Outside court, she said she’s convinced Johnston, who is now 52, will likely die in prison and believes the more painful sentence for him will be having to sit in jail and think, day after day, about what he’s done.
The justice reserved his decision on parole eligibility until Nov. 3.