Later this year, the first of the four people responsible for the slaying of 14-year-old Justin Vasey in the backyard of an abandoned Surrey house on Feb. 25, 2008 will go before a parole board to apply for early release from jail.
Cody Pelletier, Jordan George, Jade Pollard and Danielle Wood-Sinclair were sentenced in 2009 to prison terms ranging from seven to four-and-a-half years after they pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Some have already been allowed temporary unescorted absences from prison, but none have been granted full parole permitting them to live and work outside prison.
Danielle Wood-Sinclair, the youngest, was handed the shortest sentence and will be the first to have a parole hearing in April of 2011.
Details of the case could not be reported in 2009 because three of the accused were teenagers protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
At the time of the killing, Cody Pelletier was 20.
Pelletier’s half-brother Jordan George was 17. Jade Pollard was 16 and Danielle Wood-Sinclair was 15. But because all were sentenced as adults, the ban on publishing their names was only temporary.
Now, with the parole board hearings looming, The Leader has obtained transcripts of their sentencing hearings.
The newspaper was also granted access to information gathered by a three-man team of investigators from the Integrated Homicide Investigation team (IHIT) that solved the case.
Justin’s friends and family were also contacted. They describe how an unhappy, socially awkward boy tried to be friends with a group of people who turned on him and killed him.
“At the time of his death, Justin had just turned 14,” Surrey judge Paul Dohm observed during the teens’ sentencing hearing. “But he was developmentally delayed, had social skills deficit and poor judgment. He had difficulty making and keeping friends.”
One IHIT investigator found that Justin operated at a 12-year-old level emotionally.
Growing up, it appears Justin didn’t spend much time with kids his own age. He was raised by his grandmother in Scarborough, Ontario after his parents split.
A family friend recalls a pleasant, dutiful child who would go with his grandmother to bingo games.
“He was such a good little guy,” Monty Mazin said. “So jovial.”
Grandmother Maureen declined to be interviewed.
Eventually, Justin’s father Jason Vasey, reclaimed his only son and took him to B.C. to raise.
However, Justin ended up in foster care after his father, beset by personal problems, decided to do what was best for his son and voluntarily placed him in care.
Father and son stayed in touch, however.
Jason would visit Justin, and they talked on the phone.
An IHIT investigator described a “shrine” of photos of Justin with his dad in the boy’s bedroom.
It was a “good placement,” the investigator reported.
Justin’s foster mom filed a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for the teenagers describing how Justin’s confidence seemed to be improving in the months before his death.
He was not an outstanding student, but he made an effort and remained the dutiful, eager-to-please kid who followed house rules and obeyed curfews.
About a month before he died, all that changed.
He seemed to suddenly spiral into despair, developing an attitude that nothing mattered.
Justin began staying out late and his grades plummeted.
Then he met a group of older teens that included Jordan George, Jade Pollard and Danielle Wood-Sinclair.
None were students at his school. They were tough kids with horrific backgrounds.
Wood-Sinclair, 15, was described in court as a daily user of drugs and alcohol, a runaway at the age of 12 who was convicted of uttering threats against her own father after she took up with a much older, criminal boyfriend.
Jade Pollard was 16, an alcoholic runaway with a history of violence. Her mother was a drug addict and she was sexually abused by her half-brother. Pollard had a significant criminal record that included a conviction for assault.
Both of the girls had been in and out of foster care.
Jordan George, born to an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother, did not have a criminal record, but he did have a history of acting out. He’d been kicked out of several foster homes for violent, drunken behaviour.
Jordan’s older half-brother Cody Pelletier was born addicted to cocaine and Ritalin. Pelletier’s criminal record included convictions for uttering threats and possessing a dangerous weapon.
All four were far more damaged and dangerous than the younger, naive Justin, who began tagging along with them in the weeks before his death.
“He was a lamb among wolves,” IHIT spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr said.
On the evening Justin Vasey died, he was hanging out with a group of young people who began shoplifting some vodka from a local liquor store.
They ended up at an abandoned, graffiti-covered single-storey house at 14245 104 Avenue around 5 p.m.
At some point, Justin made a comment about his father punching First Nations people.
As far as investigators could determine, Justin was trying to mimic the trash talk he heard the three teens and Cody Pelletier, all of them aboriginals, express to one another.
He didn’t understand the risk.
Cody and Jordan talked Justin into climbing up on the roof, where they started jumping on it to try and cave it in. They managed to collapse parts of it.
After awhile, Cody and Jordan jumped down, but Justin was afraid.
The half-brothers climbed back up and Cody punched Justin once in the face knocking him down.
Justin got up and Cody punched him again.
Then Jordan grabbed Justin by one arm and tossed him off the roof.
They made him chug vodka for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Things seemed to be settling down. Then Cody Pelletier announced that he wanted to “punch someone out” and he walked up to Justin and hit him twice.
Jordan joined in, tripping Justin, kicking his legs out.
When Justin tried to get away, Cody, Jordan and Danielle grabbed him. Danielle hit Justin with her purse.
Then Jade joined the attack.
All four kicked Justin, punching him, stomping on him and hitting him with a brick, a pylon and a metal stereo left in the abandoned house as he begged them to stop.
Then Cody passed out from the vodka and the violence escalated.
Two other teens were present but did not take part in the attack.
One, a boy identified in court as J.J. was carrying a knife. Jordan took J.J’s knife and used it to stab Justin.
Then Danielle and Jade took the same knife.
They talked about the location of organs as they wielded the blade, including the location of the “big artery.”
When the teenage girl identified in court as H.M. tried to leave, the others threatened her life.
She would later explain that she didn’t try to stop the attack because she was outnumbered.
“I’m a f-----g chick,” H.M. told a Facebook forum. “I can’t take on two guys and two girls.”
The autopsy results showed Justin was stabbed eight times, four of which were life-threatening, once with enough force to break a rib.
His nose was broken, there were eight blunt force injuries to his head and multiple abrasions and bruises.
Justin was on the ground, still breathing, when the teens left the scene, dragging the unconscious Cody Pelletier with them.
Jordan boasted that the killers “earned their tear,” a gang reference to killing someone.
Mounties were initially sent to the Guildford neighbourhood at around 6 p.m. to investigate reports of suspicious activity.
The first officers didn’t see anything at the address given to dispatchers, but a patrol of the area found Cody lying unconscious in a yard a couple of blocks from the initial call.
Officers later returned to the original address and found Justin dead in the backyard.
Following an undercover police investigation, all four were arrested and charged.
The three teens were charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Cody Pelletier was charged with manslaughter and pleaded guilty. He seems to have been the most remorseful.
“I remember very little, but enough to haunt my dreams for the rest of my life,” he said at his sentencing hearing.
“I should’ve been able to stop it... I was the oldest, I could’ve been the one to say ‘enough’. ”
Justin was laid to rest in block 131, lot 23 of the Boundary Bay Cemetery in Tsawwassen.
His battered face was covered and the coffin was sealed for the ceremony, but his father insisted on opening the casket so he could put a lacrosse stick inside.
He didn’t explain why.
Justin’s foster mother also attended the service. His biological mother could not be located.
A small temporary marker was installed. The faded blue-green stamped metal frame has Justin’s name applied with a plastic label maker. It sits atop a foot-long pointed metal stake tapped a few inches into the soil.
Temporary markers are used to identify burial sites until a proper permanent gravestone can be installed.
Nearly two years after his death, Justin is still waiting for his.