Mother of murder victim forgives killers
In a soft, sometimes unsteady voice, Carol Barber told a B.C. Supreme Court judge what the murder of her only child has meant for her.
Two years after 24-year-old Kyle Barber was killed, his mother still has moments where she expects him to come through her kitchen door for a visit.
"He was my joy," she said.
She read her victim impact statement aloud in court late Friday afternoon (June 10), a few minutes after two men were convicted of the March 28, 2009 attack in an Aldergrove house that claimed her son's life.
Albert Jacob Jackman, 24, was convicted of first degree murder while Gregory Barrett, 32, was found guilty of manslaughter for being an accessory.
Carol Barber told Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein that she viewed her son as a "gift" from God, who answered her prayers when she and her then-husband could not conceive.
She said Kyle was a loving and protective son who she never stopped loving even when he made what she called "wrong choices."
That was a reference to Kyle's criminal record, which includes convictions for theft, assault, aggravated assault and threatening.
Ever since Kyle died, Carol Barber says she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that has left her anxious and hyper-vigilant with her "senses continually on high alert."
She is unable to work.
"I have been cut off from the possibility of ever having grandchildren, among other things," she said.
She said her strong faith in God has helped her through her ordeal and offered forgiveness to the two men who took her son's life and to their relatives in the courtroom.
"There are many families affected by this tragedy," Barber said.
"We have all lost something very dear."
She said she hopes to speak directly to Jackman and Barrett through a court-administered reconciliation program for victims and offenders.
"I would like to leave that door open," she said.
"I have no bitterness in my heart."
In finding the two men guilty as charged, Justice Stromberg-Stein rejected defence claims that Barrett and Jackman did not mean to kill anyone when they paid Barber and his girlfriend a late night visit, concerning a robbery at a barn next door that Barrett leased.
The pair said they were greeted politely at first, but then Barber suddenly ran to a bedroom and grabbed a pistol-grip shotgun from under his bed.
They say the injuries that cost Barber his life were inflicted because Jackman was defending himself.
Barber's girlfriend testified that the pair forced their way in and Jackman repeatedly assaulted Barber while Barrett held her in a bear hug grip.
She said Jackman beat Barber about the face with scissors before the final, fatal struggle where her boyfriend was repeatedly stabbed and died of massive blood loss.
The judge said she did not believe either man, and while the girlfriend's testimony was "inconsistent" in some areas, she was a "credible and reliable witness" unlike the two attackers, whose testimony the judge derided as "bordering on far-fetched and ridiculous."
"Neither is being honest," Stromberg-Stein said.
"Both are evasive."
Jackman's claim that he didn't deliberately stab Barber with a knife because he was holding the blade sideways in his hand "makes no sense" the judge said.
"It defies reason."
She wasn't any kinder in her assessment of Barrett's testimony, saying it was "totally unbelievable" for Barrett to claim that he didn't know the robbery next door involved a marijuana grow op, and that he didn't believe he and Jackman were not welcome in the house even after the fight over the shotgun.
Before he left the courtroom to begin serving an automatic sentence of life with no parole for 25 years, Jackman was asked if he wanted to say anything.
He asked to be allowed to turn around to speak directly to Barber's mother and other friends and relatives.
"I am incredibly sorry for this extreme devastation," Jackman told them.
"And I hope and pray that you can forgive me one day."
One male relative stormed out.
Barber's girlfriend was not in a forgiving mood, either.
She complained, loud enough to be heard, that Jackman winked at her when he was making his apology.
He asked to speak again, and said that the wink was meant for his family who was sitting in a row of seats directly in front of the girlfriend.
Then he left, blowing his family a kiss.
Barrett will remain free a few more days until his jail sentence is decided.
Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson wanted Barrett's bail revoked, but the judge ruled it can remain in effect at least until a Thursday (June 16) court hearing in New Westminster
Stromberg-Stein said she expects to impose a "term of incarceration" on Barrett.
Prosecutor McPherson plans to ask for 10 years, a term that defence lawyer Neil Cobb is expected to argue is an unprecedented and excessive "double-digit" sentence.
A ban on publishing Jackman's name in news reports was imposed at the beginning of the Friday hearing, after his lawyer argued it would otherwise prejudice a jury trial of his client on a separate unrelated criminal matter.
The other trial ended Monday for Jackman, when he entered a guilty plea (see related Times story).
Jackman's connection to the Red Scorpions gang was raised more than once during the trial, but was not considered a deciding factor in the judge's lengthy verdict, which took over three hours to deliver.
The girlfriend testified that Jackman showed Barber a Red Scorpions tattoo on his wrist and warned him that he was dealing with the notorious gang, but Jackman denied saying that.
Jackman, meanwhile, claimed that he only hit Barber in the face following the struggle over the shotgun because Barber had claimed he worked with the late Kevin LeClair, a Surrey Red Scorpions associate member and friend of Jackman's, who was gunned down in a Langley strip mall in February of 2009.