On the first day of this year, a 15-year-old Toronto girl was busy cleaning up her bedroom in preparation for her coming sweet 16 party, her lawyer says.
At the same time, police say, a 17-year-old male - who turns 18 today - was stabbing another teenage girl to death at the 15-year-old's command. However, allegations that the girl is a manipulative killer are fiercely challenged by her lawyer, who says his client is anything but.
Stefanie Rengel, 14, is the city's first homicide victim of 2008. According to a Crown synopsis, she died at the hands of the 17-year-old, who was driven to do it by the 15-year-old girl, who was fuelled by jealousy. Both teens now face first-degree murder charges in Stefanie's death.
Friends and neighbours of both the victim and the two suspects said she and the 17-year-old had been in a relationship that ended, and that the two suspects later began dating. The girl's lawyer says his client was not at the scene of the crime and should never have been charged with first-degree murder.
"My client is a 15-year-old child who is a 93-per-cent student in Grade 9 at her school," Marshall Sack said. "She's not a Svengali, she is not Lady Macbeth, and she is not the manipulator of a 17-year-old boy who is [much]heavier than she is."
Mr. Sack said his client is as baffled as he is by the first-degree murder charge.
"Whether it is true or untrue that she, motivated by jealousy, wanted someone dead - that's not the basis for a murder charge. People want things all of the time," he said. "Children want things; adults want things. That doesn't mean you're guilty of a crime."
The 15-year-old girl remains in custody while Mr. Sack prepares her bail application.
Stefanie's killing is unique in a number of ways, and presents police and prosecutors with several potential hurdles. One of those involves the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Authorities have been largely helpless at preventing the identities of the two suspects from becoming public. By law, the two teenagers cannot be publicly identified, but various people repeatedly posted their full names on the popular social networking site Facebook. Yesterday, many of those references were removed from the site, indicating that police or Facebook staff - or both - had stepped in. Still, people continued to post the suspects' initials and first names on on-line groups yesterday.
Facebook media relations staff did not respond to requests for comment.
Friends of Stefanie's continued to share memories of the slain teen and farewells on memorial pages. Several of her close friends have told The Globe that they don't want to speak publicly about her yet, but they have stressed she was a "nice girl" and the kind of person who "brought a smile on everyone's face no matter who they were."
Someone identifying himself as a former boyfriend is writing what purports to be a four-part series of notes on his friendship and subsequent relationship with her. Written as a detailed account of how he got to know her, at times the narrative shifts and he addresses Stefanie directly, recalling an amusing or noteworthy moment from their past.
The first two instalments have already been posted to the website, and the epic tale already spans nearly 5,000 words.
Meanwhile, a trust fund in Stefanie's name has been set up by friends of the Rengel family. Donations can be made at any branch of Toronto Dominion Canada Trust. The account, number 502-004-72986322671, will be active for six months.
The money with either be donated to a charity of her parents' choosing or used to establish a scholarship fund in her name, one of the organizers said.
With a report from Timothy