A man charged with the second-degree murder of a Surrey hockey mom will appear in court Monday, as the case draws renewed attention to a homicide that struck a nerve across the community and prompted calls for police to get tougher on crime.
On Friday afternoon in Surrey, members of the Lower Mainland's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) arrested a 27-year-old man, who was then charged on Saturday.
The break in the case comes nearly five months after the vicious beating of Julie Paskall in a parking lot outside the Newton Arena on Dec. 29, 2013.
Ms. Paskall, a mother of three, had driven to pick up her 16-year-old son from the rink where he refereed a minor hockey league game.
Police say they conducted an extensive investigation that included reviewing nearly a thousand hours of surveillance tapes and engaging in an intensive search for evidence around the arena, resulting in findings being submitted to Crown counsel and charges approved.
Yosef Jomo Gopaul will appear in Surrey Provincial Court on Monday.
"We do truly appreciate that an individual has been charged with Julie's death. And while this is very important, it does not bring her back. She's deeply missed and this has been an extremely difficult time for our family," said her husband, Al Paskall.
He read from a statement during a news conference Saturday with Superintendent Kevin Hackett, the officer in charge of IHIT, and Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy, Surrey RCMP detachment commander.
Ms. Paskall, 53, was found unconscious and died two days later in hospital last New Year's Eve after being taken off life support. "We have suffered an unthinkable loss," Mr. Paskall said.
Mr. Gopaul moved last fall to Surrey from Ontario, just eight weeks before the beating and murder. RCMP confirmed that the accused has a criminal record, related to charges in 2010 of aggravated sexual assault against a woman in Brampton, Ont.
"Julie's death not only had a devastating impact on her family and friends, the community of Newton, the City of Surrey, but the entire hockey community across the country," Chief Supt. Fordy said. "This crime touched me on a number of different levels – as a citizen of Surrey, as your police chief, as a hockey player, a hockey dad and a former coach."
Supt. Hackett said the second-degree murder charge represents a significant milestone in the case. "This tragic event outside the Newton Arena and Julie's subsequent death, a short time later, resulted in numerous calls for justice and even enhancements to public safety services," he said.
Doug Elford, a spokesman for the Newton Community Association, said in an interview Sunday that his group welcomes the increased police presence in the Newton neighbourhood since Ms. Paskall's fatal beating.
Police on bike patrol, better lighting outside the rink and more closed-circuit television surveillance in the area have been among the improvements over the past five months, but citizens want the stepped-up monitoring to continue over the long term, Mr. Elford said. "We aren't going to allow the policing to back off," he said.
A company's plans to expand the Newton bingo hall have residents worried about the prospect of a casino-like atmosphere attracting increased crime, Mr. Elford said.
Despite assurances from gambling authorities that slot machines won't be reintroduced, the association is carefully watching to see what happens to the bingo site, which the group considers an eyesore.
"It's not a good neighbourhood for slots, and the hall already had permission before for temporary slots," he said.