An 18-year-old Edmonton gang member who pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend of four years was given a seven-year sentence Thursday, the maximum youth sentence possible under the law.

A judge in Dawson Creek, B.C., sentenced the youth to just under three years in a youth correctional facility and then another four years of close community supervision. 

The teen — who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act  — pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the May 2008 slaying of the 17-year-old girl, who was also from Edmonton. She also cannot be identified under the act.

During a sentencing hearing Wednesday, he apologized to her parents Wednesday in a Dawson Creek, B.C. courtroom.

"Last year I was completely screwed up. Sick, depressed," he said.

He also added: "I despise myself and I wish my actions could be undone. I know that I killed my best friend and I know I will never forgive myself."

According to an agreed upon statement of facts, the teen stabbed the girl in the neck during a trip to Fort St. John, B.C.

The youth was a member of the Crazy Dragons gang in Edmonton and the girl agreed to drive both him and a fellow gang member to the city in northeastern B.C. The youth stabbed the girl in the neck while they were in an apartment with several other people.

Motive not clear

The motive for the slaying has never been clear, but in court Thursday, the judge revealed new details about a crime he called unprovoked and unpredictable.

When he was 14, the youth's parents separated. He began to skip school, got into drugs and was convicted of assault with a weapon and uttering threats. Then he got involved with the Crazy Dragons and started selling drugs for them, the judge said.

At the time of his girlfriend's slaying, the youth was on probation for drug trafficking. Once they got to the apartment, the girl was sent to the store. The youth said he was scared and wanted to go, too. When she was gone, other gang members pointed a knife at him while they were all sitting at the kitchen table.

"Am I supposed to kill someone?"  he asked, but no one answered, the judge said.

According to the judge, the youth hugged the girl when she got back and laid his head on her chest. That's when he stabbed her twice in the neck. The girl bled to death.

Earlier in court the Crown prosecutor said pre-sentence psychological reports suggest the youth believed his own life was in danger if he didn't kill someone.

Court hears victim impact statements from family

When the youth first entered the courtroom Wednesday, the victim's mother collapsed into loud sobs.

In victim impact statements read to the court by the Crown, the family talked about their grief and sorrow.

The mother said she cries everyday, can't eat or sleep, and has yet to touch a single thing in her daughter's room. In the middle of the night, she thinks she hears her daughter's voice telling her she's home.

The father told of how his wife visits their child's gravesite every day. 

The defence lawyer told the court her client has since removed himself from the gang.

The maximum penalty for second-degree murder under the Youth Criminal Justice Act is seven years. Both the Crown and defence said they wanted the maximum penalty to apply, but they differed on how much community supervision he should receive.

With files from Janice Johnston