The young man accused of murdering North Delta teen Laura Szendrei two years ago admitted in court Thursday morning that he killed the 15-year-old.
The accused, who was originally charged with first-degree murder, entered the surprise guilty plea to second-degree murder in Surrey Provincial Court on what was scheduled to be the last day of his preliminary hearing.
Shortly before the plea was entered, the judge had announced there was enough evidence to proceed to trial in B.C. Supreme Court.
Szendrei, a student at North Delta’s Burnsview Secondary, died from injuries sustained after a brazen daytime attack on a pathway in Mackie Park near 110 Street and 82 Avenue on Sept. 25, 2010. The young man was arrested and charged in February 2011.
While the plea spares family and friends of Szendrei the pain of going through a lengthy criminal trial, they were visibly shaken after hearing the admission from the man who killed their loved one. Delta Police said the family was aware of the plea agreement and endorsed it knowing that the Crown is seeking an adult sentence.
Szendrei’s parents left the courthouse Thursday in tears and did not speak with media.
Delta Police spokesman Const. Ciaran Feenan said while the investigation was long and complex, police were committed to having someone held accountable for the teen’s murder.
“Our reaction is one of relief, more so for the family. We hope that this can bring them some closure. We hope that it gives closure to the entire community that was affected by this tragedy,” said Feenan. “It really was something that shocked the community to its very foundation.”
He said the motive for the murder remains uncertain.
“I don’t know if anyone will ever know,” Feenan said.
Police mounted an undercover operation to illicit a confession from the man. The ruse involved staging a video-game competition that eventually led the killer to be introduced to someone he was told was a powerful entertainment executive who could make the teen’s problems go away.
The setup ended in a confession.
Because the killer was a minor when he committed the crime, he cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He was 17 when he killed Szendrei, just days away from his 18th birthday.
The Crown has filed an application to have the young man sentenced as an adult. If that happens, his name can be made public.
As well, if raised to adult court, he would receive an automatic life sentence and wouldn’t be able to apply for parole for up to seven years.
A youth sentence for second-degree murder is a maximum of seven years, only four of which can be served in custody.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18-21 in Surrey Provincial Court.