Girl found guilty of murder in family’s deaths
A Medicine Hat girl may have made Canadian legal history by being the youngest person ever convicted of multiple murders.
A jury in Medicine Hat, Alta. took about three hours to find the teenager guilty of first-degree murder in the bloody slayings of her parents and little brother.
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Crown prosecutor Stephanie Cleary said afterwards she didn’t worry too much about Â the prospect of making legal history.
“I truly hope that we have done the right thing here and I think that we have done the right thing by this young person and by the victims,” she said.
“This is the community’s response to this terrible crime and I hope that the verdict gives some comfort to the families of the victims.”
The 13-year-old appeared to be silently crying when the jury delivered its verdict early Monday evening. She turned flush and put her hand over her mouth.
Defence lawyer Tim Foster put his arm around her. CTV’s Sarah Galashan said if there were any of the girl’s extended family in the courtroom, they didn’t try to comfort the girl.
“What do you expect in the circumstances?” Foster told reporters afterwards about his client’s reaction. “I’ve said from day one, she’s 13 years old, and I have no idea how she’s been coping with this.”
Cleary said she didn’t think the jury was overly quick, given that only one issue was really at stake — the girl’s credibility.
The seven-man, five-woman jury began deliberating in the early afternoon after Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Scott Brooker instructed them in the law.
He noted the Crown and defence agreed that Jeremy Steinke, the boyfriend of the accused, physically did the killing of the girl’s mother, father and eight-year-old brother.
The judge noted, however, that an accused can be found guilty if it’s shown they intentionally helped, encouraged or persuaded someone to commit a crime.
To convict on first degree murder, the jury had to agree the Crown proved there was planning and deliberation involved in the offence.
The options of second-degree murder or a verdict of innocent were also made available to the jury.
The Crown had argued the girl pushed Steinke to kill her family because they disapproved of her relationship with the much-older man. She was 12 and he was 23 at the time of the April 2006 killings in the family’s home.
Over a four-week period, the Crown tabled 71 exhibits and dozens of witnesses to establish that the girl had plotted the murders with Steinke.
The defence said the girl didn’t want her family killed and had only discussed it as a “hypothetical” matter with Steinke.
Foster had argued that Steinke, high on cocaine and inspired by violent movies, carried out the acts on his own in a misguided attempt to please his girlfriend.
In taking the stand, the girl testified she had just been venting when talking about how she hated her parents and wished her family was dead.
She insisted Steinke broke in through a basement window and killed her mother and father.
However, she admitted to trying to choke her brother, who was terrified. “I was trying to put him to sleep,” she said.
The girl admitted stabbing him one at Steinke’s urging, but not very deeply. Steinke slit the boy’s throat, she said.
She described herself as being in a dreamlike state that night. But she did have the presence of mind to call a cab and go to a convenience store where she used her mother’s bank card to withdraw money.
Steinke, 23, also faces murder charges, but has not yet entered a plea. No trial date has been set yet.
With a report from CTV’s Sarah Galashan and files from The Canadian Press
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