For the Ellis family of Lachine, a long nightmare may be over but some huge challenges still lie ahead.
It all began in 2005, when Raymond Ellis — a 25-year-old budding businessman — was attacked and stabbed to death in a case of mistaken identity.
About 30 people associated with a gang saw Ellis in a downtown Montreal nightclub and mistook him for a rival gang member because of the colour of his jacket. Twenty-four people were arrested, and seven were ultimately charged.
Five have now been convicted.
After a protracted legal fight to put the men responsible behind bars, the final two sentences in Ellis’s murder were handed down Tuesday: 14 and 15 years, minus time served, for Evens Belleville and John Tshiamala.
The judge gave them a heftier sentence than the Crown sought because, he said, Belleville and Tshiamala showed no remorse.
The Ellis family’s road to justice has been long and fraught with sadness.
The first trial of Tshiamala and Belleville was thrown out, after accusations of misconduct were levied against the prosecution.
CBC Montreal’s Shawn Apel sat down with the Ellis family — parents Joyce and Raphael and sisters Sharon and Patricia — this week to talk about their long ordeal.
The family went straight to the cemetery following Tuesday’s sentencing, where they delivered a message to their lost loved one.
“Hey Ray, we’re here. It’s done, it’s done,” recounted Raymond's mother, Joyce Ellis.
“It’s been long, it’s been a long time. We just had to get through this for Ray. He was that kind of guy. He would do that for us, there’s no question."
And on Tuesday night, they all slept better than they had in nine years.
“It's been so much of a strain that everything in our life was interrupted, especially our sleep,” said father Raphael. “I remember during the trial, various trials, you leave the court and at night you lie in bed, and you hope that the day wouldn't light, because you have to face the same thing the next day. So to have all that come to a conclusion... it was the greatest release that we could have.”
Father struggles with forgiveness
A religious family, the Ellises have struggled — and are still struggling — with how to get past Raymond’s death.
Sister Patricia said she’s found a way to move on, even quitting her career in the corporate world to return to school so she could work with troubled youth. She now lives and works in Kuujjuaq, in Quebec’s north.
She said if she can put even just one young person on a better path than the people who killed her brother, then her work will have been a success.
But father Raphael still struggles with forgiveness.
When asked what he would do if any of those who killed his son asked him for forgiveness, he said he didn’t know if he’d be able to do it.
“I'm going to try to be gracious because I know that for myself — for my feelings also — I have to come to a point where I have to forgive. I'm hoping that I'll get there sometime, but right there it's not in the cards for me,” he said.
“For my own redemption, I have to get to the point to forgive them,” he continued.
'Now we can laugh'
During Shawn Apel’s visit, the family regaled him with stories about Raymond.
Sister Sharon said the family received a phone call from a stranger who told them Raymond protected her and showed her kindness while she was being teased by a group of fellow students.
Patricia and Raphael recounted that Raymond would often bring friends home to feed them and give them a place to sleep.
“I have a friend who doesn’t have a bed. Dad, can he come and sleep here?” they recalled Raymond saying.
“I used to come home from work, and he would arrive before with his friends, and he would feed his friends my supper. And I would have to go and prepare something to eat when I got home,” Raphael said, laughing.
“They haven’t got enough, Dad,” mother Joyce chimed in.
“Now we can laugh,” she said, beaming, “because of the joy that Raymond brings.”