A courtroom in Surrey Provincial Court erupted in cheers Thursday as the killer of 15-year-old Laura Szendrei was sentenced to life in prison, serving his time as a adult.
On Friday in Surrey Provincial Court, Justice Robin Baird ruled the young man – who was just a week shy of his 18th birthday and therefore a young offender when he killed Szendrei in 2010 – will be jailed in a federal adult penitentiary, with no possibility of parole for seven years from the time he was charged in 2011.
“He was on the very threshold of adulthood,” Baird said in his decision Friday.
Baird said he was taking into account the “devastation the accused has wreaked upon the Laura Szendrei family,” but also the effect the murder has had on the public in general.
“In particular, the peaceful and law-abiding community of Delta where this appalling crime took place,” Baird said. “This offence has upset this community’s sense of well-being and serenity.”
Baird decided that time in provincial jails would be inadequate for the accused.
“The public has every right to the security and long-term protection from this offender,” Baird said. “In short, Crown has satisfied me that a youth sentence would not be sufficient.”
As such, the young man will serve seven years in a federal penitentiary that will be chosen by Corrections Canada.
The 21-year-old offender – who could normally be named now that he’s been sentenced as an adult – still has his identity protected until the judge rules on an application from his defence lawyer to shield his name in perpetuity.
Szendrei’s mother Rachel said it’s one of her greatest wishes that the accused be named.
“I now want to see his name out there,” she said.
The man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last October.
Szendrei, a student at North Delta’s Burnsview Secondary, died from injuries sustained after a brazen daytime attack on a pathway in Mackie Park near 110 Street and 82 Avenue on Sept. 25, 2010.
The young man was arrested and charged in February 2011.
During his sentencing hearing this summer, Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephen said on the morning of the attack, the young man awoke with an urge to have sex.
The court heard the killer did some work with his dad and decided he was going to act on his urge. He packed a pipe and zap straps and went to Mackie Park in North Delta, where he saw Szendrei, whom he didn’t know.
Upon seeing her, he told her the chain came off his bike and he asked her for help.
When she went to him, he grabbed her, and when she struggled, he tried to loop a zap strap around her neck, hoping to render her unconscious so he could have sex with her.
She escaped, and started to run, and that’s when he struck her in the head with a pipe. When she continued to run he struck her again, causing her to fall.
As she cried on the ground, he came and struck her a third time, rendering her silent.
She died in hospital later that evening.
The court heard it was the killer’s fourth sex-motivated attack in six months – the three others taking place near Burns Bog.
In the first, he grabbed a woman’s buttocks, in the second he pulled down a runner’s pants, and in the third, he hit a woman in the head with a stick.
Rachel Szendrei called the life sentence to be served as an adult a “no-brainer,” adding it’s the only punishment that comes close to fitting his crime.
Asked if the healing for the family can now begin, Rachel said full healing will never come..
Laura’s father Mike said he’s glad he no longer has to come down to provincial court and explain to the press how he’s doing.
Szendrei’s grandmother Betty Rotaro said the murder has been a harrowing experience for the family.
“We can’t even say (Laura’s) name any more,” Rotaro said, adding the pain is too deep.
As to the sentence given her killer, Rotaro said, “He got what he deserved.”