The man who killed a hockey mom in Newton two-and-a-half years ago has received a 10-year prison sentence for the crime.
On Friday (May 22), Yosef Jomo Gopaul, 28, was also given a two-year sentence for the violent robbery of a different woman two weeks before the Dec. 29, 2013 killing of Julie Paskall.
Gopaul was originally charged with second-degree murder.
However, evidence revealed Paskall had a heart condition and suffered a heart attack, likely brought on by a blow to the head that forced her to the ground, where she fractured her skull.
Gopaul pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
In an agreed statement of facts read by Crown counsel Wendy Stephen, Gopaul approached Paskall on Dec. 29, 2013. Paskall had driven her Dodge Caravan into the Newton Wave Pool parking lot at 7120 136B St. to pick up her son at the Newton ice arena.
As she walked toward the arena, she was struck by Gopaul on the back or side of her head with a 1.2 kg (2.6 pound) rock, about the size of a grapefruit, causing her to fall face down in the parking lot with her arms by her side.
She remained there for 20 minutes before someone found her there, virtually lifeless.
Gopaul had grabbed her purse with lottery tickets and a small amount of money (estimated to be $20 or $30) and ran off.
Paskall was taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital and put on life support.
Two days later, medical staff determined she was brain dead. She was later removed from life support at the family’s request and died.
Based on DNA evidence from the rock, police suspected Gopaul. They ran a so-called “Mr. Big” operation on Feb. 11 where police undercover operatives pose as a crime bosses.
The investigators got Gopaul to lead them to where he threw the purse into a cedar bush at 139 Street and 76 Avenue.
Gopaul consistently said he had no intention of seriously hurting Paskall. He just wanted knock her out long enough to take her purse.
He also told the “crime boss” that he robbed another woman two weeks earlier. Evidence at trial showed the slight Asian woman suffered a broken nose and several other injuries when Gopaul took her cell phone and some money.
Gopaul was arrested on May 23, 2014.
Stephen pointed to several aggravating factors in Gopaul’s case, including that he preyed on vulnerable people and “lived a life of crime” since he was 16.
Mitigating factors included his guilty plea, a troubled background and that he is remorseful.
Prior to Gopaul’s sentencing, family and friends of Paskall delivered emotional victim impact statements.
Paskall’s husband, Al, delivered a tearful statement to the courtroom, saying a day doesn’t go by where he doesn’t miss his wife of 30 years.
They were just getting ready for retirement, where they could enjoy each other’s company fully, he said.
“In one selfish act, Mr. Gopaul took our future away – what gave him the right to do that?” Paskall asked. “I still wake up thinking she’s right there beside me. I catch myself talking to her.
“What’s my life now? I have no life, I just exist.”
He said he dreams of the chance to have another moment with her.
“I would give everything I have in life for five more minutes with her, I would tell her a thousand more times how much I loved her,” he said.
Julie’s daughter Rhiannon, who has cerebral palsy, also gave an emotional statement to the court.
“She was my best friend and my hero,” Rhiannon said. “From the time that I was born, my mom dedicated her entire life to me as well as my siblings.”
While still and expressionless for most of the sentencing hearing, Gopaul was visibly upset hearing the victim impact statements.
He issued an apology to the family from the prisoner’s box.
“I never thought the blood of someone else would be on my hands,” Gopaul said, “I know most of you hate me, but I have to let you know how truly sorry I am.”
Crown counsel spokesperson Neil MacKenzie said outside court that there was no choice but to reduce the sentence and secure a guilty plea.
Because it was ultimately Paskall’s heart condition that caused her death, and intent would be difficult to prove, a murder charge would likely be unsuccessful, MacKenzie said.
Gopaul was given credit for the 18 months he’s already spent in pretrial custody, leaving 10-and-a-half years remaining of his sentence.