Michelle Proulx (girlfriend of Sam McGowan

Teen who fatally stabbed Surrey man apologizes in court

Family of victim Sam McGowan says killer's words are meaningless; youth's sentencing scheduled for January.

The teen convicted of stabbing a Surrey man to death in 2009 gave a prepared statement in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster Tuesday, saying he’s disgusted with his behaviour and the tragic results.

But the family and friends of victim Sam McGowan, the man the teen stabbed to death on a Surrey street two years ago, don’t buy it.

Wearing a collared white shirt, black pants and a blue tie, the youth faced Justice Laura Gerow and read from a piece of paper. Standing up straight, his brown hair cut short, the teen – who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – told the court that what happened on Aug. 5, 2009 “was very terrible and tragic.”

“I am disgusted with the way I behaved…it’s something I’m going to regret for the rest of my life,” he said, his back to the public gallery.

“Above all, the life of a man who was loved and cared for was lost. My actions…caused his death. I am responsible.”

The teen, who was 14 at the time of the killing, is now 17.

On that summer night in 2009, he and a friend committed two robberies, stealing cellphones from another pair of teens, on of whom was Sam McGowan’s son.

McGowan, 42, chased the youth and found him under a porch. The teen, whose defence lawyers said he feared for his life because others were also chasing him, plunged a knife into McGowan’s chest, killing him.

The killer was initially charged with second-degree murder but in June, a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. During trial, he also pleaded guilty to two robbery charges.

The teen told the court his life has changed since the night McGowan was killed.

“I was forced to change and became a different person,” he said. “I can’t say sorry enough to the family. I acknowledge and accept full responsibility and I apologize.”

Earlier, defence lawyer David Tarnow argued for a lenient sentence for the teen, pointing to the fact he has abided by all of the conditions set at bail, including maintaining employment, studying high school courses and engaging in positive extracurricular activities. Tarnow said the youth should also get credit for time already served.

“He is remorseful…it is clear Crown is grasping at straws (by asking for a three-year sentence, the maximum for manslaughter under the YCJA),” Tarnow said. “His rehabilitation is ongoing. He is well on his way to rehabilitating himself, with the help of many in the community.”

Tarnow said the youth had worked at McDonald’s and framing houses and has received nothing but positive reports from his employers. The defence lawyer asked the judge to consider his maturity level at the time of the stabbing compared to now.

“He has shown he can be a responsible person in the community,” Tarnow said. “To incarcerate this young man at this stage is counterproductive to him and not helpful at all.”

Tarnow asked Justice Gerow to impose an Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision order as a sentence, with only one day in custody.

On Monday, Crown prosecutor Jodie Harris argued in favour of the maximum three-year sentence, with an 18-month jail term followed by 18 months of community supervision, with six to 12 months served concurrently for the robberies.

Gerow put the matter over for sentencing on Jan. 27.

Michelle Proulx, McGowan’s girlfriend, walked out while the teen read his statement, but returned to court to hear when sentencing will happen.

“I’m pissed,” she said outside, her emotions starting to show. “Nothing he says will change anything. We’ve waited and waited and now we have to wait some more. He’s probably going to walk.”

Proulx’s daughters, Madison, 10, and Miqueilla, 14, said McGowan was a hero, not a vigilante.

“Sam had the biggest heart. He just wanted to stop him (from stealing the cellphone). He’s a hero, not a vigilante,” Madison said. “(The killer’s) apology means nothing to me. He killed Sam. You don’t go walking around with a knife.”

Miqueilla agreed.

“Someone that great is gone. Sam was the best. The best!” she said. “If (the killer) gets three years – if that – our family has to live without Sam for the rest of our lives.”

 

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