Tension palpable at murder sentencing hearing in Courtenay

Emotions were high inside and outside the Courtenay courthouse Monday afternoon, as a sentencing hearing began for a Comox Valley teen.

THE DENTON FAMILY and supporters wait outside the courthouse displaying their familiar signs.

Emotions were high inside and outside the Courtenay courthouse Monday afternoon, as a sentencing hearing began for a Comox Valley teen previously found guilty for the second-degree murder of James Denton.

In August, Justice R.B.T. Goepel made that ruling about the teen, who was 16 at the time of the murder, guilty. Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines noted he would seek an adult sentence.

The accused cannot be named because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).

The hearing Monday began with James’ mother and father, Brenda and David Denton, reading victim impact statements, followed by James’ uncle George Denton and Crown reading brother Shayne Denton’s statement aloud.

Dressed in a white button-down shirt and black pants, the accused began to cry as the statements were being read, keeping his gaze down and avoiding eye contact with the packed gallery.

“There are no words to express the pain in my heart,” said Brenda Denton. “What’s left of an amazing, gentle, loving man is now a box of ashes sitting next to my bed … never in my worst nightmare did I think (James) would be robbed of his life. My heart is still broken.”

Denton explained “day to day life is extremely difficult,” and the death of her son has changed her in many ways.

“I was a very social, outgoing person, and now the mere task of going out is overwhelming. I feel like my life is stuck in this nightmare.”

Court heard throughout the trial, which concluded in June, that Denton, 19, was stabbed twice — once in the left armpit and once in the left lower back — near the entrance to G.P. Vanier Secondary School following the conclusion of a July 2011 day-long music festival at the nearby Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds.

David Denton described he and his son shared a passion for logging, nature, fishing and hunting, and had plans to purchase property together near Nanaimo to be closer to extended family.

“James and I had an uncommonly close father/son relationship. He didn’t hesitate telling other people I was his best friend,” he said through tears. “There is an intense sadness that is totally overwhelming me. It’s so unjust, so unreasonable, so undeserved and so unbelievably sad.”

Denton said since the murder, he is unable to work as a heavy equipment operator because he has trouble sleeping, which now requires medication.

“You have changed so many lives for the worst,” noted George Denton as he directed his statement towards the accused. “There isn’t much to smile about anymore.”

Outside the courtroom, emotions flared during an afternoon break between friends and family of both the Dentons and the accused, as sheriffs were needed to break up a scuffle on the steps of the courthouse.

Justice Goepel noted prior to the commencement of the proceedings, he is unsure if at the conclusion of the scheduled week-long hearing, a sentencing decision will be forthcoming, or if he will need to reserve his decision for a future date, scheduled for Jan. 18, 2013.

Under the YCJA, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder is seven years, with a maximum of four years in custody, and the remainder to be served in the community with conditions and under supervision.

As an adult, second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, however, the judge can set parole eligibility at anywhere between 10 and 25 years. If sentenced as an adult, Crown explained the accused could be eligible for day parole in February 2017, and full parole by July 2018.

• • •

Citing six aggravating factors, Crown prosecutor Gordon Baines began his arguments Monday afternoon in a week-long sentencing hearing.

He is seeking an adult sentence for the accused found guilty of second-degree murder.

Since the outset of the trial, Baines noted he was seeking an adult sentence for the accused, who was 16 at the time of the murder.

“(The accused) was clearly the aggressor. He was not scared or frightened, and he didn’t act in self-defence. He could have walked away,” Baines explained to court.

Baines noted there are six aggravating facts:

• The accused brought a weapon to a public event.

• He had a knife out (an element of premeditation) and had a conversation with a friend prior to the incident about “not wanting to stab someone.”

• The accused provoked the fight.

• The attack with the knife was done without warning.

• The knife was used twice.

• The accused ran away after the incident without trying to assist James Denton, whom he had just stabbed.

Baines added that court should place the most weight on the seriousness and circumstances of the event, as well as consider the accused’s age, maturity, character and previous background.

Baines will continue his argument early this week, followed by an argument for a youth sentence by defence lawyer Michael Mulligan.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cumberland council supports cannabis delivery changes

Letters to Village point to need for online order, direct delivery during pandemic

Comox Valley RCMP impound six vehicles in six days in May

All drivers were found to be going at least 47 km/h over the speed limit

Cumberland water plant costs come in higher than planned

Extra costs result of delays, Hydro requirements and right of way access

Boil water notice lifted in Union Bay

The notice has been lifted as of May 27.

Tsolum River Restoration Society members keeping busy during COVID-19 times

Young fish can get stranded in the most unlikely of places

Vancouver Island bride held wedding in seniors home so dying stepdad could walk her down aisle

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Comox Valley business map offers information on local eateries, grocery stores and more

Search and click for hours and services offered during the COVID-19 pandemic

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP told of alleged assault in Courtenay hours after the fact

Police only made aware of possible attack through social media posts

Yukon ready to lift COVID travel restrictions with B.C. in July: premier

Premier Sandy Silver says the territory’s health-care system can cope with the virus.

‘It is dire:’ Study finds B.C. logging continues on critical caribou habitat

The federal Species At Risk Act requires provinces to identify critical habitat for caribou herds

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Telegraph Cove Resort will open June 1 to self-contained campers only

Washrooms, showers and all other amenities will remain closed for now

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Most Read