Judge to decide whether 18-year-old will get youth or adult sentence in 2018 murder of Regina teen

·3 min read
Erica 'Eliza' Hill O'Watch is remembered by family for her kind heart, and love of spicy food, volleyball and make up. The 16-year-old was fatally stabbed at a Regina house party in 2018. (Submitted by Skye Hill - image credit)
Erica 'Eliza' Hill O'Watch is remembered by family for her kind heart, and love of spicy food, volleyball and make up. The 16-year-old was fatally stabbed at a Regina house party in 2018. (Submitted by Skye Hill - image credit)

There wasn't an empty seat in a makeshift courtroom at Regina's Conexus Arts Centre Friday, the last day of arguments in a sentencing hearing for a teenager convicted of fatally stabbing a 16-year-old in 2018.

Following final arguments from the Crown and defence lawyers, the teen offered an apology to Erica "Eliza" Hill O'Watch's family and friends watching from the gallery.

"I'm not asking you to forgive and forget because I know what you see when you look at me," the now 18-year-old told the room. "I would like to say sorry for what happened. She didn't deserve what happened to her."

As the teen read his prepared statement aloud, Hill O'Watch's mother, Skye Hill, could be seen shaking her head and rolling her teary eyes.

"That wasn't even an apology, in my opinion," Hill told CBC News after the hearing. "He's sorry for what happened — not sorry for what he did."

Alex Soloducha/CBC
Alex Soloducha/CBC

Hill O'Watch died moments after being stabbed in the neck at a Cameron Street house party in October 2018.

The 18-year-old man who killed her was 15 at the time, which is why — per the Youth Criminal Justice Act — he still cannot be named.

Last November, he was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Now, Justice Janet McMurtry will decide whether to sentence him as a youth or an adult. She's reserved her decision until Nov. 5.

'A life for a life in jail'

In his closing arguments, defence lawyer Andrew Hitchcock said his client was an immature 15-year-old who was too intoxicated at the time of the crime to have known better.

"He had no idea what happened.… This was a decision made in a split second," Hitchcock told the judge, emphasizing nothing was premeditated.

He also pointed to the teen's struggles with intergenerational trauma, noting both his father and grandmother had attended residential schools, and that the teen had been in and out of foster care.

The defence argued the teen should be sentenced as a youth so he can follow through with the progress he's made at Regina's Paul Dojack Youth Centre, such as establishing relationships with staff and focusing on his school work. Hitchcock added that his client wouldn't cope well in an adult prison.

Co-Crown prosecutor Chris White disagreed.

"Nobody wants to go to the [Saskatchewan Penitentiary], but he will come out corrected when the risk he presents … is at a manageable level," he said.

White argued the teen wasn't "a young 15-year-old" and his previous encounters with the law proved a history of noncompliance.

The alcohol intake the night of the crime, he said, "is not a shield to hide behind for the purpose of sentencing," and the teen's "memory was selective."

White argued an adult sentence is in order, which would mean a life sentence in a federal penitentiary. Even if sentenced as an adult, because he was 15 at the time of the crime, he would be eligible for parole in five to seven years.

The maximum youth sentence for second-degree murder is seven years, including a maximum of four years in custody and a remainder served in the community with conditions.

Submitted by Skye Hill
Submitted by Skye Hill

"The adult sentence would be best," Hill agreed. "My daughter was 16 when she was murdered, and the fact that she doesn't continue to live her life and reach all of those milestones — I don't think that should be allowed for [him]."

Hill said her daughter was her best friend, and she's left behind several siblings, family members and friends who loved her.

"Justice for me," she said, pausing to think, "is a life for a life in jail."

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