The teenage girl charged with the 2010 murder of Ashlee Hyatt was convicted of manslaughter Sunday afternoon.
The 18-year-old was facing a second degree murder conviction, but after more than two days of deliberating, the jury of six men and six women returned with a guilty verdict on the lesser charge.
Sitting in the prisoner’s box as the jury read the verdict, the accused shook with silent sobs while her family, who had been gathered behind her, wept.
Simultaneously, cries rang out from the other side of the courtroom as Hyatt’s friends and family expressed their relief.
It was a dramatic end to a three-week trial that put the personal lives of teens who were at the Peachland party where Hyatt was killed, under intense scruitiny.
Although Crown counsel assembled a number of witnesses to say that the accused had fatally wounded Hyatt, 16, June 2, 2010, after a night of arguing and drinking, defence lawyer Donna Turko saw a different scenario.
She had argued that her client was a victim of a conspiracy, not involved with Hyatt’s death and that the party host and her sister were more viable candidates for the crime.
Sam Waller, a friend of Hyatt and many of the teens involved in the trial, had been in attendance for the court proceedings day-in, day-out and said that it was a difficult to see her friends maligned.
“They’re fabulous people. They were rocks being used to break down what the accused did. They’re amazing people,” she said.
She also said that the manslaughter verdict would provide the first step toward the closure the teens have been looking for since Hyatt was killed.
It was a sentiment echoed by Hyatt’s mother, Charrie.
“I can get to sleep tonight,” she said. “Ashlee got justice. I’d like to see (the accused) do jail time…and be accountable for what she did.”
A sentence for the teenage killer should be delivered in the new year. Crown counsel has requested a psychological assessment, and from there it will be decided whether or not she’s sentenced as an adult.
Read more about the trial in the Tuesday paper edition of the Capital News.