Thursday, March 15, 2007

Courtepatte's mother crusades for tougher sentencing

David Staples, edmonton
Published: Sunday, March 11, 2007

Peacha Atkinson believes there was an unfair rush to judge her as a bad parent after her 13-year-old daughter Nina Courtepatte was murdered in 2005.
“I’m trying to show other people that I’m not that horrible monster that I was made out to be in the beginning,” Atkinson said Saturday.

A number of issues about Nina’s family life were initially reported following her murder, including that she was killed after midnight April 3, having left West Edmonton Mall with a gang of older mall rats, and her family didn’t report her missing until April 6.

Atkinson said she has not been able to speak out about such issues, and is still greatly limited in what she can say, because of the police investigation and the trials of the five people charged in the incident.

“I’m going to let people know the real me now,” she said. “I am compassionate. I really care for my children and I’m a giving person, and if something makes me angry enough I will speak out.”

On Saturday afternoon, Atkinson helped lead a protest march from City Hall to the legislature, taking another step in a journey that has seen her move from being a grieving, highly criticized parent to a crusader for changes to the criminal justice system.

About 200 people joined the march, including the families of several young men recently slain in the Edmonton area — 20-year-old Dylan McGillis, 16-year-old Josh Hunt, 17-year-old Shane Rolston and 17-year-old Cameron Campbell.

'Nina would be so proud' Albertans march to end violence


Hundreds of Albertans whose lives were devastated by violence marched on the Alberta Legislature Saturday to make their voices heard.

The march kicked off at City Hall, where petitions were circulated calling for stiffer penalties under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Tears flowed and strangers embraced in condolence, all sharing the knowledge of what it’s like to lose a loved one through an act of senseless violence.

“It does my heart good to see so many other families come out and offer their support,” said Peacha Atkinson, whose 13-year-old daughter Nina Courtepatte was found raped and murdered on a golf course west of Edmonton on April 3, 2005.

“Nina would be so proud (of the rally) because she wouldn’t stand for injustice. She was a believer in doing what was right.”

Heather Airth-Prior was collecting signatures on Atkinson’s petition. Her own son, 36-year-old Barry Starr, was stabbed to death at a party four years ago.

“The violence is everywhere,” she said. “There are so many people being hurt and injured and people are so quick to turn to violence. It’s just so, so sad.”

Rally organizer Gary Hunt collected about 45,000 petition signatures to send to Ottawa after his 16-year-old son Josh Hunt was slain at a house party Oct. 14 last year.

His was just one of many petitions circulating Saturday.

“We said we’re going to do something about (youth violence) and we’re going to make many changes,” Hunt told rally attendees after they arrived at the legislature, adding their voices are being heard across the country. “The changes are coming and you’re going to see it really soon.”

Edmonton-Mill Woods MP Mike Lake will be delivering the petitions to Parliament. He applauded the families’ efforts.

“Because of what they’re doing, all Canadians are paying attention to the issue of youth violence,” he said. “Because of what they’re doing, more parents are paying attention to their kids and more people are saying ‘I love you.’”

Edmonton Eskimo J.R. LaRose said it’s upsetting to see the violence that is plaguing his hometown.

“It’s very sad,” he said, adding he thinks youth today need to establish their own identities rather than being influenced by what they see in music videos and on TV. “You don’t need to be going out and killing people and doing something stupid like that. Be the bigger person and walk away.”

Grant McGillis, whose 20-year-old son Dylan McGillis was swarmed, beaten and fatally stabbed in an unprovoked attack on Whyte Avenue last Nov. 19, is also calling for further measures to fight violent crime.

“We and the other families that are here today all share a common bond,” he said. “We all lost children to senseless violence and we all thought it would never happen to us.”

Last week, McGillis hand-delivered a letter to federal Attorney General Robert Nicholson, calling for dispute resolution education for youth, better rehabilitation programs and new correctional facilities to address overcrowding.

Rally, petitions demand youth justice changes

Updated Sat. Mar. 10 2007 9:16 PM ET News Staff

Hundreds of people attended an Edmonton rally to change how the Canadian justice system deals with youth crime.

The first annual Josh Hunt Silent March for Justice rally, held Saturday, was organized by Josh's father Gary Hunt.

Josh, 16, was stabbed to death at a house party two blocks from his family home on Oct. 14, 2005. A 17-year-old is charged with second-degree murder in the case.

The rally marked the official delivery of the Hunt family petitions to the House of Commons via local Conservative MP Mike Lake. More than 40,000 people signed the petitions.

"We have enough for an association; we shouldn't have that many and that's why we are coming together," Hunt told CTV News.

He started six different petitions to demand tougher sentencing for youth involved in violent crime. The documents also call for names and photos of anyone 12 and older to be available to the media to be published and for judges to be elected by citizens.

After the petitions were delivered, Lake offered those on hand some hope of tougher laws to come.

"The Youth Criminal Justice Act is one that we have trouble getting support from opposition, but you will see legislation soon to strengthen the act," he said.

Many of those involved in the rally have been directly touched by youth crime.

Peacha Atkinson, the mother of 13-year-old murder victim Nina Courtepatte, was on hand to lend her support. She told CTV News the fight for change has helped her with the grieving process.

"It's given me strength to carry on and I'll do this till my last breath," Atkinson said.

Nina was found raped and murdered on a golf course west of Edmonton on April 3, 2005.

Joseph Laboucan, 21, and Michael Briscoe, 36, are both charged with first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.

Three youths were also charged in the slaying. One, a male, has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, while two girls, aged 17 and 16, are awaiting trial.

Kelly Rolston, another parent who lost a child to youth violence, was pleased with the turnout.

"Watching the people look out the windows, them watching down the street as we were marching down, they were interested in what was going on as well. So the more interest, the more we're going to be able to make the change," said Rolston.

Her son Shane, 17, died after being clubbed in the head with a baseball bat in November 2005.

Youths who commit crime come under the jurisdiction of the YCJA.

The YCJA was adopted by Canada on April 1, 2003. It encourages the use of non-court measures for less serious offences and the act also requires judges to inquire whether an adult is available to take care of a young person awaiting trial instead of the youth waiting in detention.

The federal government contends youth crime has dropped since the inception of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

"Crime committed by youth aged 12 to 17 fell six per cent last year, the second consecutive decline. The youth crime rate, which had declined throughout the 1990s, was generally on the rise between 1999 and 2003," said Statistics Canada in a July 20, 2006 report.

"Violent crime among youth was down two per cent while property crime dropped 12 per cent. The number of young people accused of homicide rose from 44 in 2004 to 65 in 2005, putting the youth accused homicide rate at its highest point in more than a decade."

With a report from CTV Edmonton's Courtney Mosentine

Latest accused in sex slaying of teen pleads not guilty


Grim story goes on
The brutal sex slaying of 13-year-old Nina Courtepatte is one of the most shocking and talked-about crimes in Edmonton's recent history - and it just won't go away.

Yesterday - five days after the case against two of the accused wrapped up, pending a verdict by the judge - a new trial began for a 19-year-old woman charged in the killing.

The alleged killer cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because she was 17 at the time of the April 3, 2005, slaying at an Edmonton-area golf course.

The native woman, who has long dark hair and wears glasses, was dressed in a white sweater and jeans as she stood in the prisoner's box and softly said "not guilty" after a charge of first-degree murder was read out.

Defence lawyer Colleen Connolly entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the accused for additional charges of aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.

Court has heard Courtepatte was raped twice and beaten to death with a wrench and a sledgehammer on a golf course west of the city after being lured from West Edmonton Mall on the pretense of going to a bush party.

Yesterday's Court of Queen's Bench trial began with Courtepatte's mother, Peacha Atkinson, taking the stand.

Atkinson described her slain daughter as a "fun-loving, caring person" who was "assertive" and always took care of her siblings. She said the teen, who had recently won a modelling contest, wanted to be either a model or an actress.

The grieving mom said Nina, a "very independent" Grade 7 student at Britannia junior high school who also took life skills classes in the Cheemo program, "used to like to run and hide in the dark outside and make me panic."

Atkinson testified she last saw her daughter on the early morning of April 1, 2005, when she kissed her on the way to work, and last spoke to her on the phone the next night when she agreed Nina could sleep over at a friend's home.

The trial is scheduled for six weeks.

A male youth co-accused has already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing. A second female accused is slated to go on trial in May.

The two-month trial of Joseph (Snowman) Laboucan, 21, and Michael Briscoe, 36, concluded Wednesday and the judge in the case said he will give his decision March 23.

In closing arguments, the defence lawyer for Laboucan said he was the "fall guy" after being set up by teenage "mall rat" girls who were the real ones behind the killing.

She argued jealousy was a prime factor in the slaying and suggested some of the girls there were upset with Courtepatte's good looks and popularity.

She also speculated there might have been issues with old boyfriends or the slaying might have been sparked at the time by a "fit of rage and jealousy."

Briscoe's defence lawyer argued his client had driven the group to the golf course, but was merely a bystander.

The three youth accused all testified at the trial of Laboucan and Briscoe and pointed the finger at Laboucan, saying he raped Courtepatte and attacked her with a wrench.

One of the girls also testified Laboucan came up with the idea and said he wanted to kill someone "for fun."

Families rally at Edmonton court

Demand tougher sentencing for violent youth

Peacha Atkinson shows the front page of a petition at a rally in front of the downtown courts Monday morning. The rally called for tougher laws against violent youths.(Ryan Jackson, Special to the Sun)

EDMONTON — Families angry over what they feel are lenient sentences for violent young offenders took their message to the Edmonton courthouse Monday.

They were collecting signatures they will send to the federal government to demand tougher sentencing.

They said they already have 30,000 signatures.

Among the protesters was Peacha Atkinson, mother of Nina Courtepatte.

Thriteen-year-old Nina was raped and killed on an Edmonton golf course two years ago.

Atkinson has sat in the gallery during the murder trial, even though she says the testimony has been horribly heart-wrenching.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Nina's Mother's Plea for Justice

Dear Citizens,

My name is Peacha and I am the mother of Nina Courtepatte who was brutally murdered and raped by a group consisting of adults and youths.
My daughter was only 13 years old when she was lured by friends to a non existent bush party on April 3 2005 as a pretext for pre-meditated murder.

Court testimony indicates my daughter was selected specifically to be killed by this group, and shortly after her murder, her killers began looking for their next young victim.
I am calling on all Canadians and law makers to get tough on teens who commit violent crimes. I am asking for reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I would like to see all teens charged with violent acts to be tried as adults so they can be identified.

And I would like to ensure that a Life sentence lasts for a lifetime, not ten or fifteen years.

If you would like to support these efforts, please sign our petitions:

Nina's Fight For Justice
PO BOX 62085
Edmonton Alberta.