Convicted murderer Gary Johnston will have to wait at least another 15 years before he can apply for parole.
At 52 years old, he’ll be 67 if a release from prison is granted at that time.
In 1998, when he was just 39, Johnston stabbed truck driver Vic Fraser to death in the victim’s sister’s home in the Bridgeview neighbourhood of Surrey.
Jeanie Fraser had gone to work when Johnston broke into her house on the morning of March 10, 1998 and began gathering things to steal.
When Vic showed up, Johnston initially greeted him kindly as the two men had met before. But, growing concerned Vic would become suspicious, Johnston took knives from the kitchen counter, went behind him and stabbed him several times in the neck so hard that the handles broke away from the blades. He then kicked the 41-year-old, threw a clay pot on his head and stole his wallet.
A pathologist said the victim likely bled for about 10 minutes before dying.
On Thursday morning, prior to setting Johnston’s parole eligibility at 17 years (minus two years already served), New Westminster Supreme Court Justice Robert Crawford said the accused could have simply walked out of the house 13 years ago and faced a minor criminal charge.
Instead, he committed a callous murder, threw away the knife handles, burned his clothing and fled to the Prairies, said Crawford.
“It was a remorseless, brutal, sustained and violent attack,” he said.
Johnston wasn’t arrested for the Surrey murder until 2009, after admitting his crime to an undercover police officer posing as a crime boss in Montreal.
He was found guilty of second-degree murder in April – a conviction that carries an automatic life sentence of 25 years.
By law, parole eligibility could have been set anywhere between 10 and 25 years. Crown lawyers had asked for 17 to 21, while the defence requested 10 to 15.
Crawford told the court he took Johnston’s age into account, as well as his failing health (he has Hepatitis C) and history of alcohol abuse, though he has been sober for many years.
The justice also noted Johnston’s lengthy criminal record, which began in 1977 and ended in 2000, when he was convicted for manslaughter for killing a man in Regina.
“There has been little regard for other people or society’s norms,” said Crawford.
Vic Fraser’s sister, Jeanie, sobbed in the courtroom, a picture of her brother propped in front of her. She would prefer Johnston serve 25 years before any chance of release, but is simply glad he is behind bars.
“I don’t want any more families to be victimized by him,” Jeanie said, adding that though the court proceedings have ended, her family’s struggles remain.
“It’s never over,” she said. “Because Vic’s not here.”