A teenager charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of 14-year-old Devan Selvey behind a Hamilton high school pleaded guilty in a surprise move Monday afternoon.
The trial for the teen, who can't be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, was expected to start this week before a jury.
But during a court appearance that began at 2 p.m. ET, the accused re-elected to be tried before a judge alone and then made his plea.
"Guilty," he said.
Devan was stabbed to death outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School on Oct. 7, 2019.
The accused, who was also 14 at the time, has been in custody since that day. He's now 16.
"Our thoughts today are with Devan Selvey," said Crown attorneys Brett Moodie and Lisa Ellins in a statement.
"We want to express our condolences to the Selvey-Bracci families and others affected by this tragedy. We're thankful that justice is being served today."
Members of Devan's family were in court for the plea. His mother, Shari-Ann Selvey, could be heard sobbing during the court appearance. The family left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Defence lawyer John Rosen declined to comment until after sentencing is completed.
An agreed statement of facts read in court Monday said the accused stabbed Devan once in the right, upper back.
"Devan did not see or hear" the accused as he came up from behind, Moodie read from the facts.
He was stabbed with a knife with a 15-centimetre blade, which cut through muscle and bone before slicing into his lung and severing his pulmonary artery, causing rapid blood loss, court heard.
The 14-year-old ran roughly 30 metres before collapsing.
Devan was rushed to Hamilton General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Court was shown a picture of a small, purple pocket knife Devan had with him, but was not holding, at the time of the stabbing. In the photo, the folded up blade was shown next to an evidence marker and surrounded by dried blood.
Teens were 'strangers'
Before the day of the stabbing, the two teens were "strangers" who did not know each other, according to the agreed upon fact.
On Sept. 4, 2019, just over a month before he was killed, Devan's bike was stolen near the school property.
Court was told that neither the accused nor any of his siblings were involved in the bike theft or even knew it had happened.
On the day of the stabbing, Devan and a friend saw a group of teens hanging out near an arena across the road from the high school, including someone he thought had taken his bike, court was told.
He texted his sister and then the parents of a friend who arrived at the school shortly afterwards. One of the adults, named Shawn Wagar, decided to confront the teens, the facts of the case state.
Bear mace incident preceded stabbing
When an argument broke out, the older brother of the accused used bear mace, sending everyone running from the area.
The accused's older brother, who was 18 at the time of the stabbing, was previously sentenced to 15 months of probation on a suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to the unauthorized possession of a weapon in the summer of 2020. The court heard he was carrying brass knuckles the day Selvey was killed. His conviction was not directly linked to the homicide.
After the bear mace was sprayed, Devan chased after a group of teens, with his mother driving along side him, asking for him to climb inside.
Another teen pulled out an extendable baton and told Devan to back off, according to the agreed upon facts.
The accused ran to catch up with the others, moving so fast at one point that he "came out of his shoes," court heard.
As Devan argued with a female member of the group, the accused approached and heard yelling. The statement of facts says he believed his brother could be in trouble, so he drew the knife from his waistband and stabbed Devan from behind, just as his mother got out of her vehicle.
Much of the incident was captured on security cameras.
The accused fled with his brother, but was followed by a bus driver with DARTS — a door-to-door transportation service — who saw the stabbing and followed the pair for several blocks. That driver led police to find them, and the brothers were arrested in a nearby yard.
As part of the agreed statement of facts, the accused admits his conduct was "unreasonable" and that when he stabbed Devan, he did so intending to cause serious harm he knew was "likely to cause death."
Family members in court
Devan's death prompted the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) to assemble a report on bullying, which showed it was a problem across schools in the public board, and a "culture of fear" was preventing people from reporting incidents or taking action.
Devan's father, Edward Bracci, was also in court Tuesday. A supporter hugged the teen's mom as the plea was read out.
Also present were the accused's family members, who could be heard crying at points.
Court is scheduled to meet again on Dec. 17 to select a date for sentencing.
A series of reports and assessments of the accused are expected to be prepared in the meantime.
Justice Andrew Goodman said he intends to set aside a full day to hear victim impact statements.