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Teen sentenced to 3 years for Surrey dad's stabbing death

Sam McGowan
Sam McGowan's girlfriend Michelle Proulx and her daughter Macky Proulx outside New Westminster Court Friday following the sentencing of the young offender who fatally stabbed McGowan in 2009. Below is Sam McGowan.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

The teen who stabbed Surrey dad Sam McGowan in the chest, killing him in the summer of 2009, has been ordered to serve a three-year intensive rehabilitation and custody sentence.

He will spend six months of those three years in a youth detention centre, with the remainder of the sentence spent in a rehabilitation and counselling program – the terms of which have yet to be determined.

The 17-year-old, who has already served one month of his prison term and who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was convicted of manslaughter last June and was sentenced in New Westminster Supreme Court this morning (Jan. 27).

He was just 15 years old in August 2009 when he and a buddy committed two robberies, stealing cellphones from other teens – one of whom was McGowan's son.

McGowan, 42, gave chase, eventually finding the youth hiding behind a tent trailer in the yard of a neighbourhood home. McGowan yelled and the teen ran. He then turned around, facing the victim with a knife, and plunged it into McGowan's chest, killing him.

The youth was initially charged with second-degree murder, but was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter by a jury. The defence argued the young man feared for his life. He also pleaded guilty to two robbery charges during the trial.

In December, the teen apologized in court, saying "I am disgusted with the way I behaved...it's something I'm going to regret for the rest of my life."

His lawyer, David Tarnow, said Friday his client, who has no prior criminal record, was "very disappointed" with the sentence because he felt he'd been doing well since his arrest.

In court, Justice Laura Gerow acknowledged the sentence was in no way a measure of the value of the victim's life.

"There is nothing this court can do to fix the pain.

"No sentence will ever restore him to you."

McGowan's family and friends cried and hugged one another following the sentencing. They said while the accused did not receive a lot of jail time, six months is more than they expected, and they were pleased to see him led from the courthouse in handcuffs.

McGowan's girlfriend Michelle Proulx said she feels for other victims of crime she sees in the news.

"Knowing what we've already gone through and knowing that they're going to be going through this now...

"The case is over now but it's never going to be over ... because seeing what's been going on is a constant reminder," she said of recent violent crimes.

Madison, Proulx's 11-year-old daughter, said McGowan was like a father to her.

"Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if Sam wasn't killed. Would my mom and him be married like they had planned?"

Proulx's older daughter Macky said her mom and McGowan had a "puppy love" type of relationship.

"He had the power to make everyone happy," said Macky. "He tried to make the best of the worst situations."

Longtime family friend Mae Ward encouraged other parents to "stay vigilante" with their kids.

"See who they're talking to on Facebook... wonder where they're going, why they're sneaking stuff into their pocket. Where are they during these hours during the day? What are they doing?

"Raise them right."

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