In a soft, sometimes unsteady voice, Carol Barber told a B.C. Supreme Court judge what the murder of her only child has meant for her.
Two years after 24-year-old Kyle Barber was killed, she said she still has moments where she expects him to come through her kitchen door for a visit.
“He was my joy,” she said.
She read her victim impact statement aloud in court late Friday afternoon (June 10), a few minutes after two men were convicted of the March 28, 2009 attack in an Aldergrove house that claimed her son’s life.
A.J., a 24 year old who can only identified by his initials under a court ordered publication ban, was convicted of first degree murder while 32-year-old Gregory Barrett was found guilty of manslaughter for being an accessory.
Carol Barber told Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein that she viewed her son as a “gift” from God, who answered her prayers when she and her then-husband could not conceive.
Kyle was a loving and protective son that his mother says she always loved even when he made what she called “wrong choices.”
That was a reference to Kyle’s criminal record, which includes convictions for theft, assault, aggravated assault and threatening.
Ever since Kyle died, Carol Barber says she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that has left her hyper vigilant with her “senses continually on high alert.”
She is unable to work.
“I have been cut off from the possibility of ever having grandchildren, among other things,” she said.
And then, the woman who says her strong faith in God has helped her through her ordeal offered forgiveness to the two men who took her son’s life and to their relatives in the courtroom.
“There are many families affected by this tragedy,” she said.
“We have all lost something very dear.”
She said she hopes to speak directly to A.J. and Barrett through a court-administered reconciliation program for victims and offenders.
“I would like to leave that door open,” she said.
“I have no bitterness in my heart.”
In finding the two men guilty as charged, Justice Stromberg-Stein rejected defence claims that Barrett and A.J. did not mean to kill anyone when they paid Barber and his girlfriend a late night visit concerning a robbery at a barn next door that Barrett leased.
The pair said they were greeted politely at first, but then Barber suddenly ran to a bedroom and grabbed a pistol-grip shotgun from under his bed.
They say the injuries that cost Barber his life were inflicted because A.J. was defending himself.
Barber’s girlfriend testified that the pair forced their way in and A.J. repeatedly assaulted Barber while Barrett held her in a bear hug grip.
She said A.J. beat Barber about the face with scissors before the final, fatal struggle where A.J. repeatedly stabbed Barber.
The judge said she did not believe either man, and while the girlfriend’s testimony was “inconsistent” in some area, she was a “credible and reliable witness” unlike the two attackers, whose testimony the judge derided as “bordering on far-fetched and ridiculous.”
“Neither is being honest,” Stromberg-Stein said.
“Both are evasive.”
A.J.’s claim that he didn’t deliberately stab Barber with a knife because he was holding the blade sideways in his hand “makes no sense” the judge said.
“It defies reason.”
She wasn’t any kinder in her assessment of Barrett’s testimony, saying it was “totally unbelievable” for Barrett to claim that he didn’t know the robbery next door involved a marijuana grow op, and that he didn’t believe he and A.J. were not welcome in the house even after the fight over the shotgun.
Before he left the courtroom to begin serving an automatic sentence of life with no parole for 25 years, AJ was asked if he wanted to say anything.
He asked to be allowed to turn around to speak directly to Barbers mother and other friends and relatives.
“I am incredibly sorry for this extreme devastation,” A.J. told them.
“And I hope and pray that you can forgive me one day.”
One male relative stormed out.
Barbers girlfriend was not in a forgiving mood, either.
She complained that A.J. winked at her when he was making his apology, loud enough for A.J. to hear.
He asked to speak again, and said that the wink was meant for his family who was sitting in a row of seats directly in front of the girlfriend.
Then he left, blowing his family a kiss.
Barrett will remain free a few more days until his jail sentence is decided.
Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson wanted Barrett’s bail revoked, but the judge ruled it can remain in effect a least until a Thursday (June 16) court hearing in New Westminster
Stromberg-Stein said she expects to impose a “term of incarceration” on Barrett.
Prosecutor McPherson plans to ask for 10 years, a term that defence lawyer Neil Cobb is expected to argue is an unprecedented and excessive “double-digit” sentence.
The ban on using A.J.’s full name was imposed with no advance notice at the beginning of the Friday hearing, after his lawyer argued allowing it to be reported could prejudice a jury trial of his client on a separate unrelated criminal matter.
AJ’s connection to the Red Scorpions gang was raised more than once during the trial, but was not considered a deciding factor in the judges lengthy verdict, which took over three hours to deliver.
The girlfriend testified that A.J. showed Barber a Red Scorpions tattoo on his wrist and warned him that he was dealing with the notorious gang, but A.J. denied saying that.
A.J., meanwhile, claimed that he only hit Barber in the face following the struggle over the shotgun because Barber had claimed he worked with the late Kevin LeClair, a Surrey Red Scorpions associate member and friend of A.J. who was gunned down in a Langley strip mall in February of 2009.