'The day you killed my child, you killed me too': Toronto rapper's mother confronts son's killer in court

·4 min read
Toronto rapper Jahvante Smart, right, and Ernest Modekwe, left, were victims in a triple shooting on June 30, 2018 in the city's entertainment district.  (Jake Kivanc - image credit)
Toronto rapper Jahvante Smart, right, and Ernest Modekwe, left, were victims in a triple shooting on June 30, 2018 in the city's entertainment district. (Jake Kivanc - image credit)

Amid heaving sobs from the witness box, the mother of slain rapper Jahvante Smart lashed out at her son's killer during his sentencing hearing Friday, telling convicted murderer Abdulkadir Handule that his actions have torn her family apart.

"Your parents can still hear your voice and visit you. I'll never get that chance," said Pamela Bent, mother of the 21-year-old Smart, who was also known by his stage name Smoke Dawg. "Instead, I have to visit my son at his grave and talk to his headstone, because of your senseless act.

"I'm damaged because of you — and my wound will never heal. God said we have to forgive people, but I'll never forgive you for what you did to my son. The day you killed my child, you killed me too. The only difference is I'm still on earth, suffering because of you."

Bent was one of several people who provided impassioned victim impact statements during Friday's sentencing hearing in Superior Court in Toronto, in an effort to make sure that Justice Brian O'Marra heard that their lives had been forever changed.

In February, a jury found Handule, 26, guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm in connection with the 2018 shooting deaths of both Smart and brand manager Ernest Modekwe, 28, who was well-known in the city's hip-hop scene.

Both men were gunned down on Queen Street West, which was bustling with people during Canada Day weekend on June 30, nearly four years ago.

Smart suffered three gunshot wounds, court heard — one to his neck and two in his leg. Modekwe was shot once in the neck. A woman, who was a bystander and who was shot in the leg, survived.

In a brief statement at the end of the day, Handule addressed the courtroom and apologized.

"I regret their deaths, and I wish I could take them back. I feel the pain in their loved one's voices, and I am very sorry," he said.

'My soul has been crushed,' mother says

In written statements read in court, Modekwe's father, Okwii, and mother, Thessy, described the litany of health issues including depression, anxiety and stress disorders they are enduring in the wake of their son's death.

Thessy Modekwe also said she was diagnosed with breast cancer not long after her son's death. Each day is now an uphill battle, she said.

Toronto Police Service
Toronto Police Service

"It still does not feel real to me. Every day I close my eyes and pray that this is all just a nightmare, and that my baby boy will return home to me — and every day I am reminded that he is gone, and I will never see him again," she said.

"My soul has been crushed."

Modekwe's younger brother, Chiadi, also shared a written victim impact statement in which he told the court he has autism.

"My brother was my biggest advocate in making sure I had everything I needed to get by. He always made it his responsibility to advocate for my needs in every space — school and society. He was my biggest supporter," he said. "He accepted and loved me for who I am and, encouraged me to be proud of who I am."

Now, his advocate is gone, leaving a gaping hole in his life.

"What was done to my family is despicable," he said.

Defence asks for 15 years before parole eligibility

Second-degree murder in Canada comes with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. O'Marra previously said that he would consider a recommendation from the jury when determining the length of Handule's sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The defence is asking for 15 years before parole eligibility. The Crown, meanwhile, is asking for 20 years for the second-degree murder charges and seven years for the charges of aggravated assault and discharging of a firearm with intent to wound, to be served concurrently.

In his submissions, defence lawyer Dirk Derstine also provided letters from Handule's family members, who noted how "shocking and out of character" the shooting was for the first-time offender.

He also implored the judge to consider mitigating factors in the case, like Handule's age at the time, that he came from a marginalized and vulnerable neighbourhood, and that Smart had actually pulled a gun first and fired, though Handule wasn't hit.

It would be easy to solely characterize Handule as a "violent monster" who should only be seen on the basis of the crimes he has committed, his lawyer said, but "every person is better than the worst thing they've ever done in their life.

"He is more than just the events that took place there," Derstine said.

Court is set to resume on July 21 for O'Marra to deliver his sentence.

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