For the third time since her 22-year-old son was murdered in her Surrey apartment building seven years ago, Eileen Mohan attempted to describe to a judge Friday the impact her child’s slaying has had on her life.
In court for the sentencing of Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, Mohan took the stand, tearfully trying to convey her deep, devastating and lingering loss.
“I want my Christopher back,” she said, sobbing.
She said the bullets that killed her son shattered her family forever and she still carries great guilt that she didn’t stay home that day as planned instead of going in to work.
“How was I to know that evil would walk to my doorstep?” she asked.
“My heart has not forgiven me.”
Haevischer and Johnston, both Red Scorpion gang members, were found guilty in October of six counts of first-degree murder each and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the execution-style mass killing in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Surrey on Oct. 19, 2007.
Although the murder convictions come with an mandatory life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years, Friday’s hearing allowed the victim’s families to provide statements and for a sentencing decision to be made on the conspiracy charge.
Justice Catherine Wedge delivered her sentence Friday afternoon, giving Haevischer 18 years for the conspiracy charge, with double credit for time served, leaving about four-and-a-half years remaining. Johnston received 20, leaving about eight years after credit for time already in custody.
The Crown has asked for a maximum sentence on the conspiracy charge, urging the court to send a “loud and clear” message that a “peaceful and loving society” will not tolerate such violence. Haevischer’s defence lawyer has suggested a 10-year jail sentence, while Johnston’s recommended 15.
The jail terms will be served concurrently to the automatic life sentences for the six first-degree murder convictions both men received, with no chance to apply for parole for 25 years from the date they were arrested. That means they’ll be eligible to apply for parole (not necessarily receive) in about 20 years.
Neither murderer chose to address the court or apologize to the families of the victims. They smiled and shook hands with their lawyers before being led away by sheriffs.
Two innocent victims – fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford and Christopher Mohan, who lived with his parents across the hall from suite 1505 – were among the victims who were fatally shot. Also killed were Corey Lal – the target of the planned hit – his brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo, all of whom had drug connections.
In delivering her sentence, Justice Wedge said the planned murder of one man “exploded into a horrific display of wanton violence.”
The killers intended to rob and murder rival drug dealer Corey Lal that day, but killed the others to eliminate any witnesses.
Outside court, Eileen Mohan said Friday was the most difficult day yet, but she felt her son – who was heading out to a basketball game when he was pulled into the neighbouring apartment and killed – was finally given justice.
“I’m truly and tremendously grateful,” she said.
Only Mohan and Jourdane Lal, sister of Corey and Michael Lal, spoke directly to the court. Others had the Crown prosecutor read statements on their behalf.
Jourdane spoke of the “living nightmare” she and her family has faced since losing the brothers.
“I’m not scared of death now,” Jourdane said. “It gives me hope that one day it will end the plague of longing for their smile, their laughter and their warm hug.
“I’ve been told that time heals everything, but I’m still waiting.”
Jourdane also read her mom’s statement, which spoke of the “incomprehensible pain” of losing her oldest and youngest sons.
“They will forever hold my heart and be the two greatest loves of my life.”
Several of the victims’ family members submitted the same victim impact statements as they did when Person X pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2009.
Schellenberg’s wife Lois and daughter Rachel spoke of a kind and thoughtful husband and father, who was servicing fireplaces in the Balmoral Tower the day of the murders and happened to be in the death suite.
Lois described her husband as her best friend. Rachel said her life now is not the one she should be living.
“I sit here fatherless…” she said.
Narong’s sister said watching her parents deal with losing their son has been torture. Bartolomeo’s mom said she’s been crippled with grief and questioned whether life is worth living.
“I miss him so much and I want him back.”
A new law allowing judges to hand down consecutive (as opposed to concurrent) sentences does not apply to the Surrey Six case because the law was enacted after the murders took place.
Jamie Bacon, allegedly the leader of the Red Scorpions at the time of the murders, has also been charged in the case. He is scheduled to go to trial in May on one count each of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder.
Michael Le initially went on trial with Haevischer and Johnston, but entered a surprise guilty plea to the conspiracy charge in November 2013 and then became a star witness for the Crown. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail, but with credit for time served, only has about two remaining.
Another man, who can only be identified as Person X due to a publication ban, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2009 in the case and is serving a life sentence.
Bacon has also been charged with counselling another person to commit an indictable offence, the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, and instructing the commission of an offence for a criminal organization. The charges allege that Bacon was involved in a plot to kill Person X sometime between Nov. 30, 2008 and Jan. 2, 2009.
Another man, Sophon Sek, is also awaiting trial – on a charge of manslaughter – in the Surrey Six killings.
– with files from Vikki Hopes, Abbotsford News