Sentencing delayed for teen who stabbed Surrey man to death

Young offender was convicted of manslaughter in June for Sam McGowan's 2009 killing.

Sam McGowan

The family and friends of a man stabbed to death on a Surrey street two years ago are frustrated they will have to wait even longer to learn the fate of the teen convicted in the killing.

A sentencing hearing for the teen, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was scheduled this week after he was convicted of manslaughter in June in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

But on Thursday, defence lawyer David Tarnow asked Justice Laura Gerow that an additional report be prepared prior to the boy’s sentencing. Tarnow’s request was granted, postponing the sentencing hearing until early December.

In August 2009, the then-14-year-old, and a friend, committed two robberies, stealing cellphones from a pair of teens – one of whom was Sam McGowan’s son.

McGowan, 42, gave chase, finding the youth under a porch. The teen, who defence lawyers said feared for his life because others were chasing him as well, plunged a knife into McGowan’s chest, killing him.

The teen was initially charged with second-degree murder but a jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. During trial, he also pleaded guilty to two robbery charges.

McGowan’s family and friends, who attended court on Thursday, were unhappy with the delay in sentencing.

“They’re grasping at straws,” said McGowan’s girlfriend Michelle Proulx.

She was prepared to read her victim impact statement in court this week.

In the handwritten statement, Proulx talks about “a great man with a big heart” who “will never come home again.”

Proulx also took issue with the defence’s depiction of McGowan as a vigilante.

“Any parent has a natural instinct to react when a child cries for help, and in a split second there is no room for anger, the emotion present is a feeling of concern and worry,” she wrote in her statement. “The adults that were involved that evening were not out to hurt anyone, only to stop others from getting hurt.”

Outside court, she told The Leader: “Sam’s not a monster. The kid’s the monster.”

Mae Ward, a longtime family friend and spokesperson for the grief-stricken McGowan family, was also ready to read her victim impact statement in court. In it, she details the pain suffered by everyone who knew and loved McGowan, including her.

“I cry every day and try to make sense of this. I deal with the unfortunate loss and the ridiculous reason this happened,” Ward wrote in her statement, which she will now not get to read in court until December.

The requested new report will take six to eight weeks to prepare and will determine and describe the types of programs, resources or specialized training available to the teen if he is handed an intensive custody and supervision sentence. Such details were not included in prior court reports because it was anticipated the accused would be sentenced as an adult, which did not happen as it was determined jail would not be in the youth’s best interests. The federal government earmarks up to $100,000 for the additional rehabilitation programs, the court heard.

The sentencing hearing is now scheduled for Dec. 5 and 6.

 

Excerpt from victim impact statement of Michelle Proulx:

“A great man with a big heart not only lost his life that night but he was also labelled as a vigilante by many of the public without having any of the facts that occurred throughout that day or those last moments that lead up to Sam’s death.

As parents we try to teach our kids right from wrong not to “bully or be prejudaced” but over the past few years I have witnessed many adults contradicting these teachings!

Any parent has a natural instinct to react when a child cries for help, and in a split second there is no room for anger, the emotion present is a feeling of concern and worry. The adults that were involved that evening were not out to hurt anyone, only to stop others from getting hurt.

The kid is protected by law and was able to continue living his life attending school, working and even going to extra curricular activities in the community. He still has his life and his family knows that one day he will again return home if he goes to jail.

Sam will never come home again. All of us whom are left here to carry on in life without him will feel the heartbreak and loss for the rest of our lives. His son no longer has his father, his parents left without their son.”

 

Excerpt from victim impact statement of Mae Ward:

“Since the loss of Samuel’s life our family life has changed and the pain seems to get worse as the days go by. The steps of grief and healing seem not to be taking effect as of yet. The effects of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) seem to be taking an immense control over our lives. Moms grief has caused early memory loss. James grief (Samuels’ brother) has caused extreme anger. Dad, luckily, can not remember on a day to day basis due to pre-existing medical condition. Crenia (Samuels’ sister) has not found the strength or peace to deal with the loss even with the guilty decision. Conor (Samuels’ son) deals with the sadness and the pain daily and it plays in every moment of every day that he can not even find the words to express how much losing his DAD has affected him. Mandy (Conor’s mom) has had to comfort and support him emotionally, words can not express the pain. Danielle (Samuels’ niece) deals with the ongoing pain and stress of taking care of the grandparents dealing with the loss and emotionally support me and the daily tears and sadness. Michelle Proulx (Samuels’ girlfriend), can’t even imagine what the pain she feels to hold him in her arms for his last breaths, plus her family who grew to love him. This also includes the pain of friends true and dear who love him. And last of all me, I cry every day and try to make sense of this. I deal with the unfortunate loss and the ridiculous reason this happened. I mull over this daily. I cry daily.”

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