SURREY – Yosef Jomo Gopaul was sentenced to 12 years – minus 18 months time served – after pleading guilty in the death of Surrey hockey mom Julie Paskall.
Gopaul had originally been charged with second-degree murder after Paskall, 53, died two days after being hit in the head with a rock outside Newton Arena on Dec. 29, 2013, when she was picking up her son after he’d reffed a hockey game.
But Gopaul pled guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and robbery on May 22 in Surrey Provincial Court.
The sentence includes two years for an attack that occurred on Dec. 16, 2013, before the attack on Paskall, where Gopaul hit another woman over the head with a rock, subsequently robbing her.
"These were crimes that terrorized a community. And they’ve caused many, many people, citizens in that area, to be afraid," said Crown lawyer Wendy Stephen.
Stephen read from the agreed statement of facts and said Gopaul has maintained that he never intended to kill Paskall.
Paskall fell face-first into the pavement after Gopaul threw a rock at her head, causing her heart to stop. Her autopsy revealed she died of cardiac arrhythmia, a type of heart disease. This made her more vulnerable to death in situations of high stress or anxiety, the court heard.
"Once we considered all of the evidence, we had concluded that was not necessarily going to happen and we decided the appropriate plea was to manslaughter," Stephen said of the downgraded charge. "Unfortunately some of the information released to the public was that she was brutally beaten, viciously beaten…. In fact, she was struck once on the back of her head."
Stephen and defence lawyer Simon Buck offered a joint submission for 12 years for the two crimes, which Judge Paul Dohm approved.
In court, Gopaul apologized for his actions and to the Paskall family.
"I never thought in a million years the blood of someone would be on my hands… I know you most likely hate me but I just have to let you know how truly sorry I am," he said.
Paskall was described as selfless and generous, someone who did everything for her children and family.
Her husband Al said he’s been "shattered" since her death.
"What’s my life now? I have no life. I just exist. I’m on autopilot…. I have no patience… I’m so quick to anger now."
His voice breaking, he said, "I would give everything I have in life for just five more minutes with her."
Paskall is survived by her husband, a 17-year-old son and two adult daughters.
Defence lawyer Simon Buck told the court Gopaul’s life was normal until a traumatic event when he was seven, when his mother was attacked and raped by three men in their Ottawa apartment, and jumped out of the 11-storey unit to escape. She remains disabled to this day.
Gopaul didn’t witness the attack but Buck said it had a "very severe impact" on his emotional state. He had already been diagnosed with ADHD.
"He became withheld, agitated and angry," said Buck.
Gopaul left school in Grade 9 and began to drink and do drugs, the court heard.
Crown lawyer Stephen noted that at age 28, Gopaul has 29 criminal convictions. Six of those are crimes of violence, including assault with a weapon and his most recent conviction for aggravated assault.
He was considered a high risk to re-offend after an Ontario conviction for attacking a woman on New Year’s Day 2010.
After coming to Surrey in the summer of 2013, he applied for social assistance and was denied, Buck said, and he began committing crimes to get money.