18-year-old pleads guilty to reduced charge in relation to killing of Devan Selvey

The eldest of two teens charged in relation to the killing of 14-year-old Devan Selvey was sentenced to 15 months of probation for the unauthorized possession of a weapon.

Despite the probation, Devan's family doesn't feel justice has been served

Two pictures.
A guilty plea from the 18-year-old involved in Devan Selvey's killing keeps the case moving forward, but Selvey's family is skeptical they will see justice. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The eldest of two teens charged in relation to the killing of 14-year-old Devan Selvey will serve 15 months of probation on a suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to the unauthorized possession of a weapon.

The 18-year-old suspect, who cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, appeared at the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton on Friday morning before Ontario Court Justice Martha Zivolak.

He was carrying brass knuckles the day Selvey was killed.

The Crown prosecutor, Brett Moodie, originally wanted 18 months of probation, while the defence, led by attorney Jordana Goldlist, wanted six months of probation with a conditional discharge.

"I find it would be contrary to the public interest to grant a discharge," Zivolak said in court.

"To allow it would be, in essence, to send a message that it's OK for young people to arm themselves for protection and OK for people to bring weapons in or near schools."

Part of the decision to sentence him 15 months of probation instead of 18 months hinged on how he has "stability through family support, educational endeavours, employment" and has gone to counselling. A guilty plea also spared the system from a "difficult trial."

In addition to the suspended sentence and probation, the 18-year-old will face roughly three years of court supervision, a five-year ban on any possession of weapons and must avoid contact with the Selvey family.

Karissa Selvey, Devan's 25-year-old sister, and Brian Allen, a cousin to Devan's mother, say they aren't satisfied with the outcome, but say it is a step forward. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The 18-year-old originally faced other charges of assault with a weapon and administering a noxious substance, but they were withdrawn in court.

He and a 14-year-old were also both initially charged with first-degree murder, but the charges against him were reduced late last year, leaving the younger teen as the one accused of the stabbing Devan to death on Oct. 7 outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.

While the preliminary hearing for the accused 14-year-old is set to start in November 2020, the 18-year-old's decision to plead guilty marks movement forward in a case that Devan's family feels has dragged on.

'It doesn't get any easier': Devan's mom

While the probation is progress, it doesn't do much to ease Devan's mom's grief.

"It doesn't get any easier … having to relive it all the time, I don't know how you're supposed to heal,"  Shari-Ann Selvey told CBC on Thursday evening.

"I just don't think justice will be served. That's what I'm feeling and I don't like that feeling."

The court visits have forced her to revisit the tragedy. She was there when her son was stabbed.

Shari-Ann Selvey tells CBC that before it happened, Devan called her to say a group of kids were bullying him. She drove to the school and tried, more than once, to pull him into safety as she followed the group of kids chasing her son.

He was behind his high school when he stopped running, just about to enter her vehicle — then, he was stabbed in the back. She says Devan died in her arms.

"He's always with me," Shari-Ann said.

Shari-Ann Selvey said she still thinks about her slain son, Devan, every day. She said she is his voice and feels him rest on her shoulder. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

She and about a dozen other family members filled courtroom 308. There were too many of them for the courtroom to accommodate because of COVID-19 restrictions. Some were forced to sacrifice their spots in the room.

Shari-Ann Selvey and her 25-year-old daughter, Karissa, wore purple shirts and sweaters with his face and name on them.

Devan's family linked arms and held hands, trying to stifle cries and hold back tears as they listened to the ruling in court.

Two people who arrived with the defendant sat on the left side of the room, behind him.

Both groups avoided eye contact most of the time. Just six metres separated them.

The accused swiveled in his chair, slowly shifting from left to right. When asked how he pleaded, the 18-year-old said "guilty" with a flat, subdued voice.

After sentencing, Brian Allen, Shari-Ann Selvey's cousin said, they must continue to play a waiting game for justice.

"It's one battle that's done with but we still have to win the war," he said.

Devan's death motivated the province to introduce new bullying prevention measures in schools, including training teachers in de-escalation techniques.

It also sparked community conversations and a panel review of Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board's anti-bullying practices, which COVID-19 has delayed.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

With files from Dan Taekema