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Vancouver transition house killer gets 12 years before parole

"You stole my hope," the sister of victim Kyle Gabriel told Yasin Jemal Rashid in court.
Gabriel’s sister, Julia Gabriel, told the court her brother had been turning his life around from addiction and mental health issues.

A man convicted of second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a Vancouver transition house resident will serve life in prison without parole eligibility for 12 years, a B.C.  Supreme Court ruled April 21.

Yasin Jemal Rashid, 27, appeared before Justice Nathan Smith for sentencing in the Sept. 10, 2019 murder of Kyle Vincent Gabriel, 29, at Watson House. The house is a Vancouver Coastal Health facility that helps young adults transition from in-patient psychiatric care to independent living.

Gabriel was stabbed multiple times in the chest.

The court heard Rashid and Gabriel had been on friendly terms before the killing.

Rashid had gone to the facility kitchen, hidden a knife in his clothes, returned to Gabriel and stabbed him. The court heard Gabriel staggered from the room while Rashid ran off.

“He was killed in his own room,” Crown prosecutor Michaela Donnelly told Smith.

Rashid was convicted in January.

Gabriel’s sister, Julia Gabriel, told the court her brother had been turning his life around from addiction and mental health issues. She said he had hope for a future and was reconciling with his family.

She told the judge she had taken on a maternal role as their own mother struggled with mental illness.

“I took my role in his life seriously,” she said. “I promised to always protect him and have his back. ... He was so close to his goal of living independently and had plans.”

“You stole my hope,” she told Rashid. “The ripple effect from that knife has changed so many lives.”

Smith called the circumstances “tragic,” noting Gabriel had gone to Watson House to heal his own demons.

Smith had earlier heard a defence argument for a not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder finding, but dismissed it.

“He had failed to show he did not know his actions were wrong,” Smith said.

He did, though, hear submissions that Rashid has experienced mental health issues and had been on anti-psychotic medication, which had been cut off two months prior to Gabriel’s death.

Smith said any future danger to society Rashid might pose outweighs any diminished moral culpability arising from a mental disorder.

Defence lawyer Andrew Nelson said Rashid’s history of mental illness means he cannot be held up to the community as a model for deterrence in sentencing as it suggests a lower level of moral blameworthiness and a reduced level of criminality.

“We don’t know what happened in that room but we do know Mr. Rashid was psychotic,” Nelson said of his client, who came to Canada from Ethiopia when he was 14.

Smith said Rashid was psychotic in the days prior to the offence. But, the judge added, “a lack of evidence made it impossible to determine what role it played in the attack.”

Donnelly said Rashid has had problems while in custody, with a record for destroying property and assaults on staff and other inmates.

“He destroyed at least seven television sets,” she said.

She said much of that stems from an inability to deal with frustration, usually resorting to violence.

Several psychiatrists testified at Rashid’s trial, including Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe.

Citing Lohrasbe’s testimony, Smith said, “he did say something about (Rashid’s) moral compass wasn’t completely normal.”

The judge stressed being paroled for an offence is not a return to freedom. He said a life sentence means being under supervision for life even after being released from custody.

Smith also ordered a lifetime weapons prohibition and that a DNA sample be taken.

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