Doctors disagree on North Delta murderer’s treatment

Psychologist says Laura Szendrei's killer would get better care in youth system, rather than as an adult as other doctors have suggested.

The killer of 15-year-old Laura Szendrei is no sadist, and belongs in a youth detention facility, a defence psychologist said Thursday.

Dr. Robert Ley, a psychologist, interviewed the killer and determined he was a low-to-moderate risk of reoffending.

He also said the best place for him to serve his sentence is at a youth facility rather than a federal prison.

An adult sentence for second-degree murder is life imprisonment, whereas a youth sentence carries a maximum of seven years, three years of which is served in the community.

The killer, who was 17 when he murdered Szendrei, sat emotionless in the prisoner’s box in Surrey Provincial Court this week, during a hearing to decide whether he’ll be sentenced as an adult.

Four days were set aside for arguments, but it now appears as though it will continue longer.

It was on Sept. 25, 2010 that the young man awoke at 9 a.m. with an urge to have sex, Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephen said earlier this week.

He did some work with his dad and decided he was going to act on his urge. He packed a pipe and zap straps and headed to Mackie Park in North Delta, where he saw Szendrei, who he didn’t know.

Upon seeing Szendrei, he tried to loop a zap strap around her neck, with the goal of rendering her unconscious, so he could have sex with her.

She saw him and started to run and that’s when he struck her with a pipe three times. She died in hospital that evening.

The court heard it was his fourth sex-motivated attack in six months. The three others took place near Burns Bog. In the first, he grabbed a woman’s buttocks, the second he pulled down the pants of a runner and the third, he hit a woman in the head with a stick, court heard on Thursday.

Those details came out in a so-called “Mr. Big” police investigation.

In the Mr. Big scheme, the killer – a video game aficionado – was promised a big screen TV as part of a video game challenge and a lucrative career in the video game industry.

Ley questioned the use of the Mr. Big operation. It tends to cause the people who are the target of the operation to “exaggerate and embellish” details, he said.

Playing on his obsession with video games was an effective way to attract the young man, he said.

“It was by far the best bait they could have used,” the psychologist said.

Ley said the killer is a typical child from a normal home, whose major failing is an inability to interact with women his age.

“Central to his belief is about the benefit of a sexual attack on a woman,” Ley said, adding it is an “irrational belief, but he held it strongly.”

Doctors testifying earlier this week said the young man expressed remorse over the death of Szendrei.

“I wonder every day how I could do this to someone and their family,” the accused is quoted as saying. “I have destroyed my own family.”

Ley said he ran several psychological tests and found the killer was not pathological and represented a low-to-medium risk of re-offending.

On Wednesday, the court heard from another doctor that his risk of reoffending was medium-to-high.

Ley said the federal prison system would be the wrong place to put him.

“There’s no doubt that the federal prisons are violent and risky places,” Ley told the court. “It’s not at all conducive to teaching people to get in a prosocial wain in the community.”

Asked what his chances of effective treatment would be in a provincial youth system, Ley said they would be very good.

“He’s got the right cognitive abilities to do very well,” Ley said.

Szendrei’s attacker was arrested in February, 2011. He was initially charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder last October.

The sentencing hearing continues.

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