One of the two men who shot Alexander Blanarou of Surrey to death in Abbotsford in 2017 should receive 14 years in prison, the lawyers for both sides recommended Thursday (Feb. 9).
Edrick Raju’s sentencing hearing took place at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. He previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a firearm and conspiracy to commit murder.
Justice David Crossin has reserved his sentencing decision until Friday afternoon (Feb. 10).
Blanarou, 24, was shot to death on Dec. 28, 2017 in the 5300 block of Bates Road in Abbotsford. Police arrived on scene to find his body face-down in a nearby blueberry field.
Raju, 24, is one of three men who were charged and who have all pleaded guilty.
Michael Schweiger, 33, was sentenced Jan. 24 to a four-year jail term on a charge of accessory after the fact to manslaughter. The court heard that he drove the get-away car from the scene and participated in other actions to cover up the killing.
Islam Nagem pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a firearm, and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 22.
Crown lawyer Catherine Fedder told the court that Raju was involved in a plot to kill Blanarou.
Raju drove Blanarou to the Bates Road location under the pretence of purchasing drugs from him, she said. Schweiger and Nagem were in different vehicles.
Fedder said while the pair were still in the car, Raju shot Blanarou twice in the abdomen. Blanarou escaped and was running away when he was shot by Nagem.
Blanarou’s mom and sister read emotional victim-impact statements in court.
“No words can ever truly describe how much pain you have brought into the lives of his family and those who loved him,” said Blanarou’s sister Yana, addressing Raju.
“I’m serving a life sentence as the victim of your brutal crime, taking the life of a young man just 24 years old.”
Blanarou’s mom, Marina Sokolovskaia, said she lives in “a perpetual state of grief” and holds on to the “beautiful memories we made together and how blessed I was to have him in my life.”
“Please let there be justice for my son,” she said.
Defence lawyer Hovan Patey said nothing can take away from the seriousness of the crime and the devastation that Blanarou’s death has caused, but he said Raju has “clear and very strong prospects for rehabilitation.”
Patey said Raju has no prior criminal history. He comes from a close, church-going family, but began associating with “negative peers involved in criminality” in about 2016 after he graduated.
Patey said Blanarou’s killing was a “wake-up call” for Raju, and he made changes to his life, working as a personal trainer until the pandemic and then becoming certified in Alberta as a firefighter. He also applied to the military, but was denied entry due to a history of depression.
Raju was in a class for emergency medical response training when he was arrested for Blanarou’s killing in late 2020.
Raju was in prison until being granted bail in September 2022, and took on a variety of jobs while incarcerated, as well as undergoing some counselling, Patey said.
He said Raju is “extraordinarily remorseful” for his actions in Blanarou’s death and has taken steps to “extricate himself from criminality and lead what is referred to as a pro-social lifestyle.”
Patey said Raju has strong family and community support.
Both lawyers recommended that Raju receive eight years on the conspiracy charge and 14 years on the manslaughter, to be served concurrently.
With credit for time already served, Raju would have another 11 years and two months to serve.