The Boxing Day shooting: The story so far
Updated: Tue Dec. 22 2009
The latest development in the Boxing Day 2005 shooting death of Jane Creba is the guilty plea of Jeremiah Valentine. He had been scheduled to go on trial in January on a charge of second-degree murder.
On Dec. 22, 2009, Justice John McMahon sentenced Valentine to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 12 years.
The first major legal proceeding was the trial and subsequent sentencing of J.S.R. -- who can be named as Jorrell Simpson-Rowe following an April 24, 2009 court ruling. That proceeding began 15 months earlier.
The events leading up to these proceedings began on Boxing Day 2005.
Creba was out shopping with her sister, when she was hit by a bullet fired during a dispute between two groups of thugs.
The slaying rocked a city already traumatized by number of notorious shootings in what became known as the Year of the Gun.
Four more people face either trial or a verdict in connection with the brief gunfight outside a Foot Locker south of Elm Street that also left six people wounded.
J.S.R.'s trial began on Sept. 8, 2008, but the jury didn't hear the Crown's opening address until Oct. 16. He pleaded not guilty to:
- One count of second-degree murder
- Six counts of attempted murder
- Five weapons charges
On Dec. 7, 2008, the fourth day of deliberations, the jury found J.S.R. guilty of second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and the weapons charges.
J.S.R. originally couldn't be fully named because he was only 17 at the time of the shootings, making him a young offender and subject to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The 21-year-old had been in custody since his arrest.
On April 24, 2009, Justice Ian Nordheimer sentenced Simpson-Rowe to life in prison without possibility of parole for seven years. J.S.R. will have to serve an additional three years and eight months before he can apply for parole.
J.S.R. was not accused of firing the shot that killed Creba, but under recent advances in Canadian criminal law, he could be found guilty of murder if the Crown proved to the jury's satisfaction that he participated in a gunfight and another person returned fire that struck and killed a bystander.
A key question at trial was whether the Crown could prove J.S.R. fired a handgun outside the Foot Locker store. Police found a 9mm Ruger semi-automatic pistol on J.S.R. when they arrested him at the Castle Frank subway station. That firearm was forensically linked to the shooting scene.
Near the end of the Crown's portion of the trial, the Crown and defence agreed that another man also faces charges had been carrying the pistol at the Eaton Centre and while at the Foot Locker (see 'what happened?' for the sequence of events). Furthermore, they agree that accused still held the gun when the shooting started.
Justice Ian Nordheimer of Ontario Superior Court presided over the trial, which was heard by a jury of six men and six women.
The Crown prosecutor was Kerry Hughes. The defence lawyers were Mara Greene and Gary Grill.
The genesis of the shooting began in the Eaton Centre mall where a group of young men had been behaving badly.
The North York group left the mall and moved north on the west side of Yonge Street to a Foot Locker store just south of a Pizza Pizza outlet at the intersection with Elm Street.
Valentine and his friend Milan Mijatovic were at the Foot Locker store to buy shoes for their children. Valentine was packing a .357 Magnum revolver, although it was never recovered after the gunfight.
He noticed someone else who appeared to be carrying a firearm. Defence lawyer Edward Sapiano claimed in court on Dec. 22 that the men in the Foot Locker attempted to rob his client of a gold chain.
Around 5:15 p.m., the two groups confronted each other on the sidewalk. They argued. Gunfire broke out.
Witnesses say one man, slightly to the south of the Foot Locker, first fired a shot into the air. Then they saw muzzle flashes and heard shots from the opposing group.
Const. Brian Callanan, a police officer who was working as a paid-duty officer at the now-defunct Sam The Record Man immediately across the street, has testified that he heard two volleys of shots mere seconds apart.
The day would be the culmination of the Year of the Gun -- 52 gun deaths were recorded in Toronto in 2005.
Like thousands of Torontonians, Jane Creba, 15, had been out shopping for Boxing Day bargains. She went with her sister Alison. They were on the east side of Yonge Street when Jane crossed the street to see if she could use the bathroom in the Pizza Pizza.
Jane got caught in the crossfire. Court has heard she may have tried to duck, but a bullet entered her back, severed her aorta and exited the base of her throat. "I didn't think there was anything I could do for her," Callanan testified.
The trial would later hear that Creba didn't die immediately. One witness testified he saw her crawling a few steps, blood covering her face, before she collapsed. She would become Toronto's 78th homicide victim of 2005.
Const. Angela Kahnt testified that while some onlookers tried to save Creba as she lay dying.
The incident left six other people wounded. Five of those required hospital care, and two were seriously wounded. A sixth person, an off-duty police officer, suffered minor wounds that didn't require hospital care.
The hunt for suspects
There was bedlam at the shooting scene, with massive crowds scattering in panic. But police did manage to catch an early break.
Nasser Kaivan-Mehr told court on Oct. 28 2008 that J.S.R. entered his cab, which was parked near the bus terminal west of Bay Street a few blocks from the scene. The youth seemed excited and out of breath.
They picked up a second man and asked to go to the nearest subway station, which happened to be St. Patrick's at Dundas Street West and University Avenue. The cabbie overheard a cellphone conversation where he heard them speaking on a cellphone with a third man, arranging a meeting at Castle Frank station.
Kaivan-Mehr went back to the bus terminal and told police.
When they arrested the two about 40 minutes after the shooting, police found J.S.R. holding a handgun.
Almost six months would pass before police arrested anyone else in connection with the shootout. In the meantime, police offered a $50,000 reward and protection to anyone who stepped forward.
A team of up to 20 investigators worked on the case, codenamed "Project Green Apple" because Creba liked that particular fruit.
In a series of pre-dawn raids conducted on June 13, 2006, police picked up eight people in connection with the Creba case, as part of a wider group of 25 arrested.
Two of those arrested in that sweep were among the six who suffered gunshot wounds that Dec. 26, 2005 night.
Who has been charged
Here are the others, besides Simpson-Rowe and Valentine, and their charges (all are in custody except one). Judge Timothy Lipson committed seven of them to stand trial in a ruling issued March 14, 2008 following a 10-month preliminary hearing:
- Defendant 1 - second-degree murder, six counts attempted murder; jury selection set for Jan. 25, 2010
- Defendant 2 - second-degree murder, six counts attempted murder; jury selection set for Jan. 25, 2010
- Andrew Smith - manslaughter (charge later dismissed)
- Vincent Davis - manslaughter (charge later dismissed)
- Andre Thompson - manslaughter, weapons offences (charges later dropped)
- Shaun Thompson - manslaughter (free on bail) (charge later dismissed)
- G.C. (young offender, now an adult) - manslaughter; awaiting verdict
Difference between murder and manslaughter
This area of law is complex. The 2008 version of Martin's Criminal Code takes more than 20 pages to cover the concepts of homicide, murder and manslaughter.
Here are the simplified versions, but check a legal text if you want the absolute letter of the law.
Murder is when you:
- Unlawfully kill someone and intended to do so
- Meant to cause bodily harm and didn't care whether death resulted or not (accidents and mistakes aren't excuses)
- You killed someone while doing something unlawful and caused a person's death, even if you didn't mean to do so
Intoxication can be a reason for finding someone guilty of manslaughter instead of murder, as can be provocation. The law sees those two factors as reducing someone's ability to form the intent necessary to commit murder.
In Lipson's ruling, he reduced the charges against Barnett and Woodcock to manslaughter from second-degree murder. However, a higher court restored murder charges against the two in a mid-September ruling.
J.S.R. saw his second-degree murder charge reduced to manslaughter by Nordheimer, who was then overruled by the Ontario Court of Appeal.