By Alexandra Zabjek, edmontonjournal.comMay 30, 2011
EDMONTON - They were both wards of the province, and both abused drugs and spent time in custody for killing a man before they turned 18.
Long before their sad, parallel lives intersected near the Hotel Macdonald last May, both were victims of parents who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look after them.
One of those young men sat in a prisoner’s box Monday.
The other is in a grave.
The teenager in youth court has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the death of a 25-year-old man who was stabbed on the steps near the Hotel Macdonald last year.
The victim had suffered terrible abuse in childhood. As a youth, he moved from foster home to foster home, and at age 16 he killed a man. He, in turn, was killed last year by a 15-year-old who was AWOL from his group home at the time.
“Seeing a kid like that, it reminds of my upbringing in foster care,” the victim’s brother said Monday after court. “I was angry all of the time. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there, done that.”
He is concerned the teenage killer won’t get the support he needs when he is released from detention, the kind of support his brother might have benefited from.
Neither the victim nor the young offender can be named.
The 25-year-old was sleeping on the steps leading from the Hotel Macdonald to the river valley on May 17, 2010, when he was stabbed by the teenager. An autopsy showed the man suffered a fatal stab wound to the chest and “chop wounds” to the back and side of his head.
The victim and the teen did not know each other. According to an agreed statement of facts, the teenager had spent the day before drinking and taking drugs with friends.
“There were numerous comments in the days and hours before the murder on (the teen’s) Facebook page indicating that he had a machete and he wanted to spill some guts,” said the agreed statement of facts in the case.
The teenager was walking down the steps with a friend, who noticed the man sleeping on a landing. When the friend turned around, he saw the teenager arguing with the man and striking him with a machete. His friend ran away.
The teenager also fled the scene, but a witness alerted some nearby city workers.
Police arrested the teenager two days later after receiving an anonymous tip. At the time, he was wearing shoes still splattered with the victim’s blood.
In 2002, the young man who died on those stairs was convicted of manslaughter for the beating death of Ove Lundgren, 37. Court heard at the time that he had been taken from his alcoholic mother at the age of six. He had been subjected to sexual abuse by his mother’s boyfriends, some of whom were known child molesters who provided her with alcohol and drugs.
He suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, depression, and stayed in at least 25 foster homes by the time he was a teenager.
He eventually found a foster family that embraced him. That family was in court on Monday, along with the young man’s brother and his grandmother, who had been another source of love in his life.
In her victim impact statement, the dead man’s foster mother said she forgives the teenager, who is now 16. But she warned him that jail is “the easy part,” that changing one’s path in life takes a lot more work.
The case is expected back in court on June 30 for sentencing.