December 13, 1988 – April 2, 2003
LIFE SENTENCE FOR TEEN WHO KILLED CLASSMATE,B1
TORONTO STAR:FRIDAY,APRIL 23,2004
They sat each day in the courtroom, dealing with unbearable pain, unable to tell the world about a murdered son whose name they dared not speak.
Caught between the law and their desperate desire to put a name and a face to their 14-year-old son, Debbie and George Levack feared that if his identity was revealed, his killer would get off with a light sentence.
But yesterday, with the publication ban lifted on the identity of their son’s killer, the Levacks finally felt safe enough.
“My son’s name is Eric Levack,” Debbie Levack said, fighting back her tears as she held up a large framed picture of Eric outside a Brampton courthouse.
“He was becoming a beautiful young man. He was a caring, kind and loving boy.”
Earlier, Mr. Justice James Blacklock gave Levack’s killer, Justin Morton, an adult sentence ? one that under the Youth Criminal Justice Act carries a life sentence with no parole for at least seven years. Morton, now 15, will initially serve his sentence in a youth facility.
It was also the first time Morton’s name could be published in this landmark Canadian criminal case.
The Heart Lake Secondary School student is the first person to be charged and convicted of first-degree murder under the new youth act, which became law April 1, 2003, the same day Morton lured Levack to a forest near their Brampton school and strangled him with his belt.
Morton made a surprise guilty plea in January.
In the agreed statement of facts previously read out in court, Morton admitted he had planned to murder somebody for several weeks before deciding to end Levack’s life.
His reason: Levack annoyed him, and he believed life behind bars “in juvey” (juvenile detention) was better than living at home with his mother and stepfather, who he felt gave him too many rules and restrictions. He told friends he considered jail to be “free room and board.”
Emotionally drained and thankful the case is over, the Levacks said they still find it hard to believe their son was murdered for those reasons.
“My son lost his life for no other reason than because he (Morton) wasn’t happy at home,” Debbie Levack said. “Now he’s getting exactly what he wanted. He (killed) so he could go to jail. … My son never had a chance. He was an innocent bystander.”
During her wrenching victim-impact statement last month, Debbie said that most days she didn’t “feel like living,” that she “cried every day” imagining how her son had been brutally murdered, and that she remained “paralyzed by fear” every time her 12-year-son, Kevin, leaves their Brampton home.
“I don’t think I will ever not be sad again,” she said yesterday. “And that’s sad, because I was never a sad person.”
The young teen loved to go fishing and camping and was a sports enthusiast, his father said.
“We wanted to release our son’s name earlier, but we didn’t want to interfere with the case,” George Levack said. “We have to live the rest of our lives without him. We’re reminded of him every single day when we sit down to dinner and there is an empty chair at the table.”
Debbie said it was “terrible” having to hear things in court each day about “him” and never hear anything about her son.
“It was like a big secret,” she said.
Their eldest son taught his grandmother, Isabel, how to use a computer. She still e-mails him every day.
“It’s not fair,” Isabel said. “I’ve lost a grandson. I only have one grandson now. ”
The bespectacled Morton, who was 14 and trained in karate and tae kwon do at the time of the murder, showed no remorse at any of his court appearances. He chose not to say anything to the court yesterday, including apologizing to the Levack family.
“He showed absolutely no remorse,” Debbie said, unable to fathom how such a person feels “nothing” for committing such a horrific crime.
“It was hard (sitting there and watching Morton). … He didn’t seem to care. He was so unemotional, so detached in the courtroom, it was scary. To think a person like this was around our neighbourhood.
“It was the un-luck of the draw that my son happened to be picked. … We’re living a nightmare every day.
“You tell your children to be afraid of strangers. Now what do I tell my son Kevin? He (Morton) wasn’t a stranger.”
The Levacks said they had “mixed feelings” about Morton’s sentencing.
“There is a possibility that even though he has been convicted as an adult, he could spend his entire sentence in a youth facility,” George said.
“You can vote when you’re 18 and buy a beer when you’re 19, but you can kill somebody and spend your sentence in a youth jail,” Debbie said. “If he was an adult, he wouldn’t be getting out of jail for at least 25 years.
“If he could do such a heinous crime at 14, he can also do it when he’s 40.”
Both parents vowed to do whatever it takes to keep Morton behind bars well beyond his minimum seven years of parole ineligibility.
“That’s our job for the rest of our lives,” Debbie said. “We will do whatever it takes to be ready when he’s ready for parole.”
The teen’s own psychiatrists said he had displayed “homicidal fantasies” since his arrest, and the court previously heard that he believed he gained strength from murdering Levack. The court also previously heard that Morton had been reading Mein Kampf while in jail, had drawn Nazi swastikas in a Bible, had expressed white supremacist views and talked about out-of-body experiences.
The court also previously heard how Morton had thought about killing three other classmates before choosing Levack. Initially he thought about stabbing him and showed a switchblade to several of his friends.
In fact, Morton told 15 classmates, many on the day of the killing, that he was going to murder Levack.
Moments before strangling Levack, Morton put the belt around another teen and pulled it tight, asking him if he trusted him. This teen, whose identity remains protected, was initially supposed to hold Levack while Morton killed him, but he said no and left the wooded area before Morton committed the murder.
Afterward, Morton returned to school, went to art class and then went with a friend to a nearby police community station, where he admitted he had killed a student and told police where they could find his body.
Had Morton been sentenced as a youth, the teen would have faced a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, with no parole for at least six years.