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Courtroom cheers as teenage girl's killer gets adult life sentence

Rachael Szendrei, the mother of Laura Szendrei, gives the victory sign as she and supporters leave court following the verdict at the provincial court in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 18, 2013.


The young man who bludgeoned to death a teenage girl and put a community on edge three years ago has been sentenced to life behind bars.

In an over-capacity courtroom on Friday, Justice Robin Baird handed down an adult sentence to the man, who was days shy of his 18th birthday when he killed Laura Szendrei, 15, in a sexually motivated attack on Sept. 25, 2010, in Delta's Mackie Park.

The earliest he will be eligible to apply for parole will be February, 2018.

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The emotionally charged courtroom gallery – which was filled with Szendrei family and friends, who sobbed earlier when the judge recounted details of the gruesome attack – broke into applause at the decision, smiles on tear-drenched faces. "Given my assessment of the totality of this evidence, the accused is an untreated, sexually motivated murderer," Justice Baird said. "He lacks insight into his offence, he represents a high risk to reoffend, the process of rehabilitating the accused is likely to take much more time than would be available in a youth sentence."

Further, only a federal penitentiary is equipped to deal with the young man – not a provincial correctional centre, he said.

When the judge asked the young man, who wore a white dress shirt and kept his head down during most of Friday's proceedings, if he had anything to say, he apologized again.

"I'm so sorry for everything I've done, and all the pain I've caused everybody."

Laura's father, Mike, who at one point had to leave the courtroom on Friday, praised Justice Baird's decision outside the courthouse.

"The judge did the right thing," Mr. Szendrei said. "The rest of you parents out there, maybe you don't have to be scared that this guy's crawling around."

Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephen said: "This is a tragic case, obviously, and there's never any happy outcome. The Szendreis are very badly affected; the Delta community is badly affected."

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The young man was initially charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in October, 2012.

A hearing to determine whether he should be sentenced as a youth or as an adult began in the summer. His lawyer, Donna Turko, had called for a youth sentence of seven years – four in jail and three in the community – claiming her client was worried for his safety and would not be properly rehabilitated in an adult prison.

Ms. Turko has requested an interim publication ban on her client's name.

Laura, a Burnsview Secondary student, was violently assaulted in the park and died early the next day. The court heard the young man intended to render her unconscious, either with cable ties or blows to the head with a steel pipe, and then sexually assault her.

In the months leading up to the attack, he had assaulted three other females in the same park, exhibiting what a forensic psychiatrist called an escalating pattern of deviant behaviour.

During the sentencing hearing, the court heard the man had felt crippled by his immense anxiety around females and held an irrational belief that he could overcome his fear through sexual assaults.

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