A sentence of 12 years has been handed down to Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le – who pleaded guilty to playing a role in the Surrey Six murders – but with credit for time already served, the admitted gang leader now faces just over three years in jail.
Chief Justice Austin Cullen delivered the sentence Tuesday afternoon in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, after earlier in the day hearing an agreed submission from Crown and defence lawyers recommending the 12-year sentence, minus double-time credit totalling nearly nine years for the four-and-a-half years Le has spent in custody.
Le pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to murder rival gang member Corey Lal. There is no minimum sentence for conspiracy to murder, and the maximum is a life sentence.
Lal was shot to death in the Balmoral Tower apartment on Oct. 19, 2007, along with five other men: his brother Michael, Ryan Bartolomeo, Edward Narong, Edward Schellenberg and Christopher Mohan.
Cullen said the planned murder of one person “exploded into a monstrous display of wanton, pitiless violence which stole the lives of six people … and caused enormous devastation to their remaining family and loved ones.”
Cullen said Le’s complicity in law was confined to the death of Corey Lal, but said his participation ultimately led to the deaths of the other five victims.
“As such, his moral complicity is high,” said Cullen.
Le apologized to the families of the victims in court Tuesday, saying while he didn’t deserve it, he hoped they’d one day be able to forgive him. The Lal brothers’ mom left the courtroom during the apology.
Jourdane Lal read an emotional victim impact statement in court earlier, saying her brothers were incredible young men with beautiful hearts and loving intentions. She said her kids have been robbed of knowing their uncles and that she’d had to watch her parents endure the nightmare of losing two of their children and the agony of the ensuing trial.
“I’ve been told that time heals everything, but I’m still waiting,” Jourdane said, noting it had been exactly 2,248 days since the murders.
Eileen Mohan, mom of Surrey victim Christopher Mohan, also read a statement in court, saying her only son “made me fall in love with him every single day.”
She said Le’s guilty plea doesn’t erase what happened on Oct. 19, 2007.
“The blood that you spilled out of my son was my blood. The lifeless body you left behind was my flesh. The spirit in Christopher that was taken was my spirit,” she said to Le. “There’s some wounds that time cannot heal.”
Mohan told Le she hoped he would one day have a son so he could experience what real love feels like.
Though they were not read in court, several other family members of the six victims also submitted victim impact statements, including Bartolomeo’s mom, the Lals’ mother, father and sister, and Narong’s sister.
Lois Schellenberg, wife of Abbotsford’s Ed Schellenberg, who was repairing gas fireplaces in the building on the day of the murders, called her husband “thoughtful, loving and kind.”
She said he was her best friend and that his death changed the lives of their family forever.
“When I think of our children it breaks my heart to think Ed won’t be able to walk Rachel down the aisle on her wedding day, he would have been so proud to do that,” Lois Schellenberg wrote.
“He will also not get to see the amazing man his son will become,” she added, saying the two men were “peas in a pod” with their love of athletics and the outdoors.
Rachel Schellenberg wrote about her “beautiful” and “amazing” father whose absence has left a hole in her life.
“There’s nothing to do but be. I’m surrounded by wonderful people, ones who care with unending love… but they’re not my daddy.”
There are publication bans in place that forbid the reporting of some details of the case.
The court heard Tuesday that the Surrey Six murders began as an intention to eliminate Corey Lal, a rival drug dealer, and send a message that the Red Scorpions gang wasn’t to be defied.
The court heard Le initially didn’t want Lal killed, but later agreed to the plot after associate Jamie Bacon suggested if they didn’t kill him, the gang would appear weak. Le spoke to others involved after the fact, and was shocked and angry that Eddie Narong, who was a friend, was among the dead.
The trial of Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston will continue in January. Each has pleaded not guilty to six counts of first-degree murder.
Bacon is also charged with conspiracy to murder in connection with Corey Lal’s death, but is being tried separately at a later date.