In the weeks leading up to her death, Maple Batalia repeatedly told Gary Dhaliwal they were through. The two had dated off and on since high school, but Ms. Batalia, 19 and in university, learned Mr. Dhaliwal had been unfaithful and ended their relationship.
Mr. Dhaliwal refused to listen. Between mid-August and late September, 2011, when Ms. Batalia was killed, he called her more than 2,000 times and texted her a couple of thousand more. He spit on one of her friends outside a club and punched another at a Tim Hortons. Mr. Dhaliwal was arrested and ordered not have further contact with Ms. Batalia.
But the promising young woman, who had acting and modelling credits and dreamed of becoming a doctor, was slain just a couple of days later. She was shot in the early hours of Sept. 28, 2011, as she left a study session at Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus. She died in hospital.
Mr. Dhaliwal pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Thursday, the day his trial was to start, drawing gasps from the courtroom. He admitted he shot Ms. Batalia three times and slashed at her head with a knife after she collapsed by her car. Members of Ms. Batalia's family sobbed as the Crown described the attack.
Mr. Dhaliwal's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday – the same day a friend of his who was also charged in Ms. Batalia's death is expected to begin trial.
Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephen told B.C. Supreme Court that Mr. Dhaliwal, now 24, bought a Bowie knife after the Tim Hortons incident and obtained a handgun, although it was not clear how. The gun was never recovered.
Ms. Stephen read from an agreed statement of facts that said Mr. Dhaliwal claimed he went to the school to confront the man who had been with Ms. Batalia at the Tim Hortons. However, he said he flew into a rage when he saw Ms. Batalia and the friend hug. He said he shot Ms. Batalia as she walked alone toward her car, and then fled in a rented vehicle.
Police later seized the vehicle and found a shell casing under the hood that matched those at the scene.
Mr. Dhaliwal was charged with first-degree murder in December, 2012. He pleaded not guilty to that charge.
Outside court, Ms. Stephen said Mr. Dhaliwal's actions were those of a jealous ex-boyfriend.
"She had told him the relationship was over. She was moving on. He did not want that to occur," she said.
Ms. Batalia's family members did not speak with reporters as they left court. They are expected to read victim impact statements at Monday's sentencing hearing.
Ms. Stephen said Ms. Batalia's family "loved and cherished" her.
"She is horribly missed by her friends and family. She was a very fine, young woman who was shot down as she embarked on adulthood. This is a very, very horrible case and it, I think, deserves the kind of sentence that Mr. Dhaliwal is likely to get," she said.
Sergeant Stephanie Ashton, spokeswoman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which investigated Ms. Batalia's death, said Thursday's proceeding was very difficult for the family.
"To hear the circumstances of what happened is very hard on anyone. Everyone in the room, I think, had a hard time listening to that," she told reporters.
In addition to the mandatory sentence of life in prison, Ms. Stephen said the Crown and defence will make a joint submission that parole ineligibility be set at 21 years. The judge can choose a period between 10 and 25 years.
Ms. Stephen said 21 years is higher than an individual might typically receive for killing one person, but reflects the gravity of the case.
"This is in the context of a domestic relationship, breaking up. In this country, people are allowed to break up, and 'no' does mean 'no.' There's that aspect of it. It's a firearm, used in a public place, there were other people around, there was very serious danger that somebody else could have been hurt," she said. "… Firearms are very seriously frowned upon in this country."