British Columbia

B.C. man guilty of killing Abbotsford teen sentenced to life without parole for 16 years

The man who killed a 13-year-old girl and injured her friend at a high school in Abbotsford, B.C., has been given a life sentence.

Gabriel Klein was given a life sentence for 2nd-degree murder of Letisha Reimer in 2016

Letisha Reimer, 13, died after being stabbed several times at a school in Abbotsford, B.C., in 2016. (Ulrich Reimer/Facebook)

Gabriel Klein has been sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 16 years for the second-degree murder of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer in 2016. 

In sentencing Wednesday morning, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes also sentenced Klein to seven years for the aggravated assault of Reimer's friend, referred to as "EI" throughout the case, to be served concurrently. 

Klein, now 26, also received seven years' credit for time served while awaiting trial.

The Crown argued at a sentencing hearing last month that Klein should serve at least 18 years before he could apply for release, while his lawyer said parole eligibility should be set at 12 years.

Friends and family of Letisha Reimer are pictured outside of the Law Courts after the sentencing of Reimer’s killer Gabriel Klein in New Westminster, B.C. on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Reimer's father, who spoke at the sentencing hearing in June, expressed doubts that Klein would receive a fit sentence for the damage caused to his family by his daughter's death.

Klein was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the months after he stabbed the girls several times but was rejected for a defence of not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.

Holmes ruled that Klein could serve his time at Pacific Institution, a treatment centre for offenders in Abbotsford, where he could receive better medical care for his mental illness. However, she said she makes no formal recommendation on where Klein should be placed, because she said it would run the risk of suggesting that Klein should have priority over others, if space at Pacific Institution is limited.

Gabriel Klein, captured on surveillance video in November 2016, hours before he stabbed two female students at a high school in Abbotsford, B.C. (IHIT/Twitter)

In delivering her sentence, Holmes said Klein's moral culpability is high and not only affected his victims, and their family and friends, but also destroyed the school community's sense of security.

"The victim impact statements, and there are many, make clear that she was valued as a very special person, joyful, filled with laughter, poised and confident, kind-hearted and caring, generous as a volunteer, devoted to her family, a wonderful soul with a beautiful smile, fun to be with, willing to be goofy and in an unbearable irony, full of life,'' Holmes said.

"The effects of losing her are many, wide and profound.''

Stones were placed outside the courthouse in New Westminster, B.C., by friends and family of Letisha Reimer, who was killed by Gabriel Klein in 2016. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)

Holmes said the aggravating circumstances in this case "are many," and are "very significant." She said the fact that there were two victims, who were children, and the profound, in one case final, effects on the victims all played into her sentencing decision. 

She also noted that the attack happened in a school, "a place that society counts on to be a safe haven."

Klein's family history was noted as a mitigating factor, along with his "relatively" young age at the time of the attack. 

Holmes ordered that Klein provide a DNA sample for analysis and that he will be unable to possess firearms or ammunition for the rest of his life.

Holmes also ordered that there be no communication of any kind between Klein and EI. 

Kleins's lawyer, Martin Peters, said Holmes made a careful, balanced decision, and agrees that her ruling is "fair."

"He's going to be in jail for a long, long time, and, you know, if he's not a model prisoner, he will stay in jail," Peters said. 

"He is serving a life sentence, and a life sentence really does mean a life sentence unless the parole board determines that your risk of reoffending is minimal and warrants a release."

Family calls for review of justice system

In a statement released by Reimer's mother, Ellie Reimer, following the hearing, she said that while no amount of jail time will bring her daughter back, she's grateful for the court's decision.

"This was a long, heavy journey that was made more difficult by a process that was tilted to the whims of the criminal and yet, the love of family, friends and complete strangers helped lighten our load," Ellie Reimer said. 

She called on the government to review the court system and ensure that victims are not re-traumatized as they make their way through legal proceedings. 

"Letisha always wanted to help, so if there is any good that can come from all of this, then let it be that we are improving our community, assisting others, and working to ensure similar tragedies never happen again."

Ellie Reimer also called on the media to "be better," and said that the re-airing of video footage from Reimer's last moments alive was unnecessary. 

With files from The Canadian Press and Susana da Silva