'My daughter has a life sentence': Regina mother tearful after daughter's killer receives youth sentence

·4 min read
Skye Hill, Erica Hill O'Watch's mother, told reporters outside the Regina Court of Queen's bench on Friday that
Skye Hill, Erica Hill O'Watch's mother, told reporters outside the Regina Court of Queen's bench on Friday that

Family of Erica 'Eliza' Hill O'Watch let out a saddened groan when the judge sentenced her killer as a youth, rather than an adult, at Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Friday.

Hill O'Watch,16, was killed at a house party in Regina in October 2018. Her killer, found guilty of second-degree murder in November 2020, told the court earlier this year that he had been drinking and didn't remember fatally stabbing Hill O'Watch that night.

He was 15 at the time of the murder and can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Justice Janet McMurtry said she was not satisfied with the prosecution's application to sentence him as an adult.

Crown prosecutor Chris White requested that McMurtry consider giving the defendant the heftiest youth sentence possible for second-degree murder — seven years — and ignore the three years that he had already served at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre.

Adults convicted of second-degree murder must be sentenced to life imprisonment, according to the Government of Canada.

He's not sorry for what he did, he's sorry for what happened. - Chris White, crown prosecutor

Defence counsel Andrew Hitchcock rebutted, asking that McMurtry consider at least one year of time served of the three he spent in custody. Hitchcock said he didn't ask for the full three because he considered the one-year ask as realistic.

After a 30-minute recess, McMurtry returned and sided with the defence. She sentenced the man to six years and eight months in custody, with one-and-a-half years of time served.

Of the remaining 62 months, two-thirds is expected to be spent in custody, with the rest in the community under conditional supervision.

McMurtry said that the defendant was a different person than when he entered custody, but recognized that he has a lot of work to do and still hasn't "expressed real remorse for killing [Hill O'Watch]."

While reading through her sentencing decision, McMurtry detailed the the defendant's background — extensive trauma including domestic violence and gang violence at his home, and his father's death from an overdose at 12-years-old.

Among other things, assessments showed that he could have neurological or trauma-induced cognitive deficits. He was also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety, and determined to have abused substances.

The defence also filed a Gladue report.

In the final moments of court, McMurtry addressed the defendant.

"This has been a long and difficult process for the family of Ms. Hill [O'Watch] and friends … the justice system part of it has come to an end now," McMurtry said.

"It is now for you to … ensure that you're not the [same] person who leaves custody that you were when you come in."

'I have a life sentence, my daughter has a life sentence'

Dayne Patterson/CBC News
Dayne Patterson/CBC News

As the defendant's family left the courtroom, people sitting with Hill O'Watch's mother, Skye Hill, angrily yelled after them.

When asked about her response to the decision, Skye took a moment to compose herself, then said with tears in her eyes, "I have the life sentence, my daughter has a life sentence."

"I lost my daughter … he took that from us."

WATCH | Skye Hill spoke outside court after the sentence was delivered

Both she and White were disappointed with the sentence.

"He's not sorry for what he did, he's sorry for what happened and that's a gigantic distinction," White said to McMurtry during court. "We're not dealing with someone who has shown profound remorse for anything he's done and that can't be forgotten."

Afterward, White told reporters how that contributed to his decision to ask for an adult sentence.

"A lack of remorse, a lack of insight in our view is problematic," White said. "When you're not remorseful for what you've done you're not in any way acknowledging the risk that you pose, and when you don't do that, you remain a risk."

Dayne Patterson/CBC News
Dayne Patterson/CBC News

Hitchcock said the defendant has shown better progress than any other client he's had in his 18-year career and that he was proud of him for that.

"One can say that the price that he should pay for what he did should be higher, but … what objective are you trying to achieve by punishing someone?" he said.

"If the objective is to try to make him become a law-abiding citizen and a better person, he's dedicated himself to that and that's all he can do. He can't change the past."

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