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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended November 24, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 21Nov00

By Kent Larsen

Teen Sentenced In Tragic Taber, Alberta High School Shootings

LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA, CANADA -- The teen who shot two students, killing one, eight days after the 1999 Columbine tragedy, plead guilty Friday to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder, and was sentenced to three years in prison, on top of the 18 months he has already served. The sentence closes the tragic Taber, Alberta case, which struck this heavily Mormon town over a year ago.

The court case, under a publication ban until the guilty plea and sentencing Friday, has revealed a very troubled teen, suffering from frequent beatings and harassment from fellow school children starting at an early age. Evidence presented at recent court hearings told how the teen, whose name has still not been released because of Canadian law, was doused with lighter fluid by classmates at age six. The classmates then threatened to torch him. Considered a "geek" or an easy target by his peers, by age 14 he wouldn't leave his house for months because of the beatings. One attack left a hole in his lower lip that he could put his tongue through.

But the court was also told that the teen was a 'whiz kid' who built a pinball machine and invented computer games. But, he felt misunderstood by peers and neglected by his family. He is the youngest of nine brothers and sisters, but has reportedly rejected his mother's LDS faith. He was often left alone at home because his mother worked part-time as a nurse.

One of his few friends said that in spite of the harassment, he never fought back, "I would say they hated him," said one of his few friends. "Some kids would provoke a fight so they could win and look good." And these problems had an effect on him psychologically. "He's a lonely, isolated individual," testified Tom Dalby, a forensic psychologist. "When people are depressed they would do many things they would not normally have done."

By September 1998, he had enough, and his parents pulled him out of W.R. Myers High School to home school him. School officials called his mother weeks later to say his attendance was poor, "It was as though they thought he was still at school," said his mother.

Weeks before the April 28, 1999 tragedy, friends heard him start talking about getting revenge for the harassment. "One day he said it would be fun to shoot people in school," a friend said. "We didn't take him seriously." Then, the news of the Columbine high school tragedy hit the news. After the Columbine shooting happened, he started talking about it more and more -- he'd like to do the same thing," said his friend. But on April 28th, he took a .22-calibre semi-automatic rifle from his dad's gun case and sawed off the butt and barrel, and took it and 355 rounds of ammunition to the school.

On Friday Provincial court Judge Gerald DeBow sentenced the teen to three years in prison, saying he believes the youth will not be a threat to society when he gets out of a young offenders center in three years. At that time he will start seven years of community supervision. "This has been a difficult, tragic set of circumstances for us, but my view is that he can be rehabilitated," said DeBow. "He is not diagnosed of severe mental illness in terms of psychosis. I am of the view he is a good candidate for treatment and remorse would be part of that treatment."

Defense lawyer Balfour Der praised the sentence. "I think under the circumstances it probably is the best-case scenario because it truly was a serious offence." But the Crown prosecutor disagreed and said that the Justice Department would decide in the next 30 days whether to appeal the sentence.

Meanwhile, the teen's mother cried in thanks for the lenient verdict, "My prayers have been answered," she said. And Diane and Dale Lang, the parents of the 17-year-old murdered that day, expressed their sorrow for the teen and his family, "They have a tough road ahead of them and I would much rather see him get the help that he needs and be able to make something out of his life than to see him sit in jail for years," said Diane Lang. "Hopefully when he is done with all the legal things and when he comes back into society he can be a positive influence," added Dale Lang, who is an Anglican priest.


Teen sentenced to three years for hallway murder
Canada News (CP) 17Nov00 D2
By Carol Harrington: Canadian Press


Teen was computer whiz tortured by classmated
Canada News (CP) 17Nov00 D2
By Carol Harrington: Canadian Press


Witnesses recall horrific details
Canada News (CP) 17Nov00 D2
By Carol Harrington: Canadian Press


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