Laura Szendrei

North Delta killer’s family may be called to testify

Court hears the final phase of testimony in the sentencing hearing for Laura Szendrei's murderer.

Members of the family of the man who killed 15-year-old Laura Szendrei might be called as witnesses during the final summations of the sentencing hearing in September.

The revelation came from defence counsel Wednesday, the final day of a five-day sentencing hearing in Surrey Provincial Court. The day also saw Crown Counsel Wendy Stephen attempt to poke holes in the psychological assessments done by Dr. Robert Ley.

The hearing will determine whether the accused, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because he was 17 when he killed Szendrei, will be sentenced as a youth or an adult. 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.

Driven by uncontrollable sexual urges, the killer left his home Sept. 25, 2010 with zap straps, a metal bar and a Swiss Army knife.

He went to Delta’s Mackie Park and saw Szendrei, a girl he didn’t know. He attempted to loop a zap strap around her neck to render her unconscious, but it just bounced off her head. Alerted, she ran and that was when he struck her in the head with the pipe. She died in hospital that evening.

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 last Thursday.

Ley determined the killer was a low-to-moderate risk of reoffending. He also said last week the best place for him to serve his sentence is at a youth facility rather than a federal prison.

Stephen questioned some of his methods, particularly the soft approach he used in the interviews with the killer, seldom challenging him on some of his claims.

Ley said he got different, often more candid, responses because his interview style was less confrontational than other doctors who assessed him. Stephen suggested it was likely less accurate, because Ley didn’t challenge him enough.

Ley said the accused was very remorseful, saying things like “I feel badly for the victim and her family,” and “Why did I go that far?”

Stephen questions the timing of the apology.

“That was just a couple of weeks before trial,” she said, suggesting the statement may have been borne more of fear than remorse. Ley doubted that because it came without prompting and was quite extensive.

Stephen challenged Ley on some of the sexual offender tests he conducted, one of which is designed for people between 12 and 18. The accused is now almost 21.

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.

Justice Robin Baird will hear final summations from Sept. 18 to 20. Defense lawyer Donna Turko said she may call the killer’s family to testify by video link at that time.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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