'Why was her life cut so short?': Mother of Regina teenage girl killed in 2018 shares impact statement

·4 min read
An 18-year-old man — who was 15 at the time of the crime — was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Erica Hill O’Watch in 2018. (Alex Soloducha/CBC - image credit)
An 18-year-old man — who was 15 at the time of the crime — was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Erica Hill O’Watch in 2018. (Alex Soloducha/CBC - image credit)

Dozens of Erica Hill O'Watch's friends and family members shared victim impact statements during the second day of the sentencing hearing for a teenager found guilty in her death.

Hill O'Watch, 16, was fatally stabbed at a Regina house party in October 2018.

The 18-year-old man who killed her — who was 15 when the crime was committed and has been in custody ever since — was found guilty of second-degree murder in November 2020.

Now, Justice Janet McMurtry will decide whether to sentence him as a youth or an adult.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, there is a ban on the publication of his name. If the judge decides he will be sentenced as an adult, his name can then be made public.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hill O'Watch's mother Skye Hill asked to be the first to give her statement. Speaking to the perpetrator and the court, Hill tearfully described how grief has weighed on her since she lost her daughter.

She said her mental health has suffered badly and that she avoids walking down the streets near where her daughter died.

"I'm angry, I'm hurt, I'm sad, I'm scared and exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually," said Hill. "I often ask, 'Why her?' Why was her life cut so short when she had so much to offer and share?"

Hill described her daughter as a "beautiful and kind" young woman with a big heart, quick to leap to the defence of anyone in need. She said her daughter loved volleyball and spicy food, and was looking forward to graduating high school and becoming a youth worker.

"The one thing that sits heavy on my mind is the 'what-ifs,' " said Hill. "What if I had kept her home that evening? If I only did things differently that evening, would Erica still be alive? I'm angry at myself because I couldn't protect her.

"The guilt of this eats me and probably will for the rest of my life."

Hill told the perpetrator she is angry at him for taking her daughter away and for not admitting guilt. During the trial, the 18-year-old said he had been drinking that night and has no memory of killing Hill O'Watch.

"I'll never forgive you," Hill told him. "I have never felt so much hate and anger toward somebody in my entire life. My daughter is never coming back."

Hill O'Watch's father Quentin O'Watch told the court he cherishes the memories he has of his daughter and said they are "all I have now."

In his impact statement, which a lawyer read into the court record for him, he talked about how he continues to mourn.

"If there is something this tragedy has taught me, it's that death is the end of life, not the end of the relationship," he said. "I often go and visit my baby girl's grave site and brush the grass with my hands like I used to do her hair."

Other people in Hill O'Watch's life described how much she was looking forward to her future: playing on her school's senior volleyball team, getting her driver's license and graduating high school.

"The last time I talked to Erica, she was updating me on her life and how she had so much going for her," said one of her friends. "The loss of Erica broke me and my heart into a million pieces."

Many of Hill O'Watch's relatives talked about how they have struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks since her death.

"Because of how much I wanted to see Erica and how hard this has been on me and my family, I have had thoughts about ending my life," said one young relative, who described Hill O'Watch as "the best person to have in your life."

Many reflected on what they would say to her now if they had the chance.

"I never got to say goodbye, and it hurts so much," said a friend who had known her since elementary school.

"I miss her so much."

On Monday and Tuesday morning, court heard from a youth worker and a registered psychologist who had been working with the perpetrator.

The youth court worker said in a pre-sentencing report that the teenager had been drinking alcohol and had no recollection of killing Hill O'Watch.

Court also heard that several past traumatic incidents and mental health challenges might have contributed to his behaviour on that night.

These include losing his younger brother to cancer and his father to suicide, then his mother being hospitalized for an extended time.

The psychologist's report also showed that the perpetrator was exposed to cocaine and alcohol at an early age and had been absent from school for a significant period prior to being put in custody. Since being in custody, however, he has improved in his academic performance and overall behaviour, and is close to finishing Grade 12.

The hearing is expected to end Wednesday.

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