"WE ARE NOT THE VICTIMS. WE ARE THE SURVIVORS."
PENTICTON - Penticton man Jamie Paul Wolanski was sentenced today to six years for stabbing a teenager to death at a 2011 graduation party.
The sentence came after what Judge Gale Sinclair called "heartwrenching" victim impact statements from slain teen Andrew McAdam's family who are still mourning the loss of a son, a brother, a cousin and a friend.
The courtroom was standing room only as 50 people, mostly Wolanski and McAdam family members, listened to McAdam's mother Linda Childes and other relatives tell the courts what McAdam's death meant to them. Nearly a third of the courtroom were in tears during the readings.
Cousin Carie Sandrelli spoke on behalf of the teen's paternal grandparents. Several times she glared in Wolanski's direction, who sat quietly with his head down, expressionless.
"We are not the victims. We are the survivors," she said. "You took away their only grandson."
Childes says she remembers her son and her older daughter going to the June 17 party to celebrate the older sibling's graduation year with the rest of the students. She recalls the phone call and an "awful feeling in the pit of my stomach" when told her son was hurt. Since his death she says she cries every day. Parents aren't supposed to bury their children, she said.
McAdam's grandmother said she misses her friend who wanted to work with his hands and build his own home. A few days after his death the family was notified McAdam passed a job interview and had a position waiting for him.
Wolanski then addressed the family and cried when speaking about the loss they suffered and the opportunities he will have that McAdam never will.
"I know my family doesn't have to be without me forever," he says, unlike McAdam's family, "who will never have him back."
In the days before the incident, Wolanski says he was having trouble fitting in and thought to attend a grad ceremony and drink with others. He wound up drunkenly arguing with other people and got into several fights before he stabbed McAdam during one of the scuffles. Since that time, and since he has been on bail, Wolanski turned to more alcohol and drugs to cope, breaching bail conditions. He was placed back into custody but later released. He says he has been clean for many months.
Sinclair says no one will be happy with his sentence as the victim's family will consider it too short and Wolanski's family will think it too long.
"Judging is not pleasing people," he says.
Crown prosecutor Deb Drissell was looking for a six to seven year term and suggested Wolanski not get credit for time already served. Defence lawyer Clarke Burnett was hoping for a four to five year stint.
Drissell said Wolanski attended the June 2011 grad bush party with a pipe and later asked for a weapon and received a knife. Burnett says Wolanski only took the pipe and displayed it to deter others from bothering him. The pipe might have had the opposite effect as Wolanski found himself beaten at least twice by several people. It was during one of these attacks he said he "lashed out" and stabbed one man, not seriously, and then stabbed McAdam four times. One of the stabs penetrated the 16-year-old's heart which proved fatal. For this crime he was charged with second degree murder but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Wolanski got credit for three and a half months already served in prison toward his six-year sentence. Sinclair says he hopes the young man will continue taking rehabilitation programs.
Outside the courtroom Childes said Sinclair "made the right choice." And while community support has helped, she says she wants the attention to "go away."
When asked, she said the sentence does bring some closure. "But I will never have Andrew back. I will never be able to hold him or hug him."
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at email@example.com, call 250-488-3065, tweet @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict
- This story was updated at 4:44 p.m., Sept. 10, 2013 to include sentencing, submissions and victim impact statements.