The man responsible for the shooting death of Corey Bennett in South Surrey two years ago is to spend another 10 years in jail for the crime.
And while family members of the victim said outside court they would have liked to see a longer sentence imposed on Donald James Chad Jr., they agreed it was “well-thought-out.”
“Given the evidence and preliminary trial… I think the judge did a good job,” Bennett’s sister, Jamie England, said Friday.
Bennett’s daughter, Kaitlyn Denton, said it was “a little bit more reassuring” to know Chad – who she saw for the first time in court that day – was sentenced.
Bennett’s cousin, Adelle Rose Moreno, said it “helps us… go on with our lives and try to heal now.”
“It’s like an open wound that’s been there for the past two years.”
In deciding on the sentence, Judge James Jardine said he kept in mind that Chad didn’t intentionally pull the trigger, as well as that he entered a guilty plea in the case and issued a “sincere… insightful” apology to Bennett’s family.
But Jardine said he couldn’t ignore that Chad, now 32, had only recently been paroled on the night he went to Bennett’s home with a plan to “retaliate, intimidate, extort, rob and humiliate” him.
Nor could he discount that Chad continued to engage in high-risk crime from the moment the gun went off until his arrest nearly two weeks later.
“His record and his conduct demonstrates that he continues to be a danger in the community,” Jardine said Friday morning in Surrey Provincial Court.
“His previous conviction and sentence had not deterred him.”
Bennett, 44, died on Nov. 9, 2013 after a semi-automatic rifle Chad was poking him with went off during a struggle at Bennett’s home in the 2600-block of King George Boulevard.
The court heard earlier this month, during sentencing submissions, that Chad had struggled with recurring substance-abuse issues since he was a teenager, and in the months leading up to Bennett’s death, relapsed.
On the night Bennett was killed, Chad had gone to the house – described as a focal point for illicit drugs – with two other men and a concealed, loaded rifle. He’d been there twice before and, on the latter visit, had been ejected at Bennett’s request by “muscle” with baseball bats.
Chad got into the house this time using “trickery”, forced his way into Bennett’s bedroom, knocked another visitor over, jumped on Bennett’s bed where he was sleeping, and prodded him with the rifle, Jardine recounted from the submissions.
After the gun went off, Chad and another male searched the bedroom and Bennett, removed a bag that had been strapped across Bennett’s body and left.
Bennett was later pronounced dead at Peace Arch Hospital.
Following police surveillance, Chad was arrested on Nov. 22 at a gas station in Surrey. He was carrying Canadian and Chinese currency and a loaded, prohibited revolver, and was wearing a kevlar vest.
Jardine said the case “provided a glimpse into the sordid, squalid” lifestyle that led to Bennett’s death.
The judge said it was difficult to reconcile family members’ descriptions of Bennett “with the man who was residing in the the crack house, acting in the role of a drug trafficker… highlighting the insidious aspect of addiction and hard drugs in our community.”
“That does not mean he deserves to die,” Jardine said.
England said outside court that she was disappointed her brother had been painted as a drug trafficker.
“He was not this crack-shack lord, and he was not the supplier,” she said, adding homicide investigators had told her they were “astounded” by the number of witnesses who had come forward to share details of Bennett as “an amazing person” who tried to help others who were dealing with addiction.
“I don’t think any of that came out (in the court proceedings),” England said.
Denton, 23, described her dad as “loving, caring… really funny,” but said his addiction did affect how much time they spent together.
“Because of the life that he led, he decided to keep us somewhat out of that,” she said.
Denton travelled from Kamloops with her six-month-old daughter and fiancé to attend the proceedings.
In imposing sentence, Jardine addressed Bennett’s family – about a dozen attended in all, including his father.
“I want the Bennetts to know there is nothing… which in anyway is going to fix the pain, or your loss or your missing your son,” he said.
In addition to a nine-year term for manslaughter, Jardine sentenced Chad to a consecutive four-year term for possession of a loaded firearm, in connection with the weapon seized during his arrest. (The rifle used the night Bennett died was never recovered.)
The judge calculated 1,103 days credit for time served, leaving 10 years and 18 days remaining in the term.
Acknowledging the sentence is lengthy – and noting “that is appropriate” – Jardine addressed Chad and expressed a belief that he could still turn his life around.
“This is truly a crossroads for you,” Jardine said. “This is the time. You’re capable of reforming – it’s up to you. Good luck.”
Moreno said that her family had never given up hope that Bennett could change his life.
“We believe everybody has the opportunity for reform – even Mr. Chad,” she said outside court.
Jardine also imposed a lifetime ban on Chad, prohibiting him from possessing any weapons or ammunition – it is the third such ban Chad has received over the years – and ordered him to provide a DNA sample and forfeit the Canadian cash, revolver and vest seized during his arrest.