Nova Scotia

Harley Lawrence's murderers sentenced to life in prison

The two men who admitted to setting homeless man Harley Lawrence on fire and killing him have been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 and 20 years.

Daniel Wayne Surette, Kyle David James Fredericks pleaded guilty after dousing homeless man with gas

Harley Lawrence died after he was set ablaze in a bus shelter, about 10 days after this picture was taken in October 2013. (Courtesy of Debbie Saltzman)

The two men who admitted to killing homeless man Harley Lawrence by setting him on fire have been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 and 20 years.

Daniel Wayne Surette, 27, and Kyle David James Fredericks, 26, doused Lawrence with $10 worth of gas and set him on fire on Oct. 23, 2013, in a bus shelter in Berwick.

They were sentenced Tuesday in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Kentville.

Justice Gregory Warner accepted the joint recommendation from the lawyers, ruling that Surette would not be eligible for parole for 20 years. Fredericks will be eligible to apply for parole in 18 years.

Surette also addressed the court, saying "I know what we done was severely f--ked up." He added that he hoped people could move on and find closure.

Fredericks did not address the courtroom.

After the sentencing, Lawrence's brother Ron Lawrence said he's not worried about parole eligibility.

"Everyone says they should get more, but it's going to be totally up to them now," Lawrence said. "What they do with their life and it will be their responsibility of how long they actually stay in there."

'It doesn't change nothing to what I feel about them'

Lawrence questions if the pair feel any remorse.

"It doesn't change nothing to what I feel about them."

"Harley had dreams like everyone else. He had hopes and dreams and due to his condition and mental illness, he got deprived of that. But he didn't deserve to go like that."

Crown attorney Jim Fyfe said the contempt Surette and Fredericks had for Lawrence was clear.

"I think what we did today is hopefully send a strong deterrent message that there is a serious, serious consequence for this type of behaviour. And that is reflected in that both these young men got a life sentence today," he said.

Fyfe said there was strong evidence that Surette was more involved in the killing. He said Surette was the one who suggested it and poured the gasoline over Lawrence, and that is why he has to serve two more years before applying for parole.

"When we looked at all the circumstances in the case, including the criminal records of both individuals, Mr. Surette has a criminal record that is significantly more serious and does include some previous convictions for violence," he said.

The pair thought Lawrence may have been a police informant and made the decision together to set him on fire, according to an agreed statement of facts read out in court on Tuesday.

'Let's get the bum'

Surette and Fredericks each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder when they made a brief court appearance two months ago.

The agreed statement of facts described how the two men went to the gas station the night of Lawrence's death.

"It was while they were in the Foodland parking lot (right where the bus shelter was) while on their way to the Needs store that Surette said something to the effect of, 'Let's get the bum' or "Let's burn the bum,'" said the statement.

"Fredericks was not certain what was said exactly, but he said that they both understood that they were going to set the homeless man on fire."

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence.

The hearing also gave Lawrence's family and friends a chance to describe what his death has meant to them in victim impact statements.

'I did something bad to the homeless guy'

During their preliminary inquiry in February, the court heard testimony from Becky Surette, Daniel Surette's mother. She said everyone in Berwick knew Lawrence, but there was a rumour he was an undercover police officer.

Surette testified her son arrived home the night Lawrence was killed and told her, "Mom, I did something bad to the homeless guy."

Police used security video from various local businesses to figure out the movements of Surette and Fredericks leading up to the killing.

It took six months for police to declare Lawrence's death a homicide, and Surette and Fredericks were not charged until April 2014.

The CBC's Angela MacIvor live tweeted the court proceedings.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now