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The Globe and Mail

Teen’s killer would need secure custody, court hears

Laura Szendrei, shown in a file photo, was killed in Mackie Park in Delta, B.C., in September, 2010.

JEFF VINNICK/The Globe and Mail

A young man who murdered a 15-year-old Delta, B.C., girl would need the same secure custody setting in prison as those given to high-profile offenders such as serial killer Robert Pickton, a provincial court judge heard Wednesday.

The man, who can't be named because he was 17 at the time of the murder, pleaded guilty last year to killing Laura Szendrei in a North Delta park after he attempted to subdue and rape the girl in September 2010.

Harry Draaisma, deputy warden of operations for the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, told a sentencing hearing on Wednesday that the man would need to be separated from the rest of the prison population because of the nature and the notoriety of his crime.

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Draaisma said the young man's offence was highly publicized by the media. He would need to be isolated in prison for his own protection, similar to the way Pickton was, Draaisma said.

"An inmate who probably knew a lot of the guys who were inmates, and may do very well in a population of those guys, could never be trusted with other inmates because of the notoriety of his offences, and the chances of (inmates) gaining favour by taking him out," he testified.

Defence lawyer Donna Turko challenged Draaisma's conclusion, arguing that while Szendrei's murder was covered extensively by the media, the young man was known to be someone who is easy to get along with, and his crimes were only directed at women.

"Because of the nature of offence, the high media information around it, it creates a very dangerous situation for that individual who we must protect," Draaisma answered firmly.

The man, who is now 21 years old, had targeted three other women several months before he killed Szendrei.

The girl had been on her way to meet some friends in the park when the man attacked her. Szendrei screamed and got away, but he caught up with her and beat her over the head with a metal pipe.

The man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and is expected to address the court later in his sentencing hearing.

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Judge Robin Baird is deciding whether to sentence him as an adult or as a youth.

If sentenced as an adult, the man would receive life in prison with eligibility for parole after seven years.

If he receives a youth sentence, he would get seven years, with four years served behind bars and the remainder served in the community.

Draaisma pointed out there are no sexual offender programs available at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

Karen Ann Sloat, with Correctional Service of Canada, told the court that if the young man was sent to a federal penitentiary, he would have access to rehabilitation programs even if he was placed in segregation.

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