Instead of celebrating the 17th birthday of Andrew McAdam on Monday, friends and family attended court, coming face-to-face with the person who allegedly stabbed him to death.
Jamie Paul Wolanski, 19, appeared in custody at a well-secured Penticton provincial court on Monday as sheriffs stood outside the courtroom doors with metal detector wands to pass over those who wanted to enter. Wolanski, who had all the markings of being in a fight with two black eyes — one of which was swollen shut — stood in front of Judge Gale Sinclair for only a moment. Charges of second-degree murder were laid and a date fixed for June 22 for Wolanski to appear via video from Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre. Wolanski is also to have no contact with two other males, believed to be involved somehow in the incident.
RCMP said a stabbing occurred around 2 a.m. on Friday in the rural Carmi Road area of Penticton, at a location where over 100 local high school students had gathered for a year-end graduation party. Andrew’s grandmother Louise McAdam said she did not believe the two knew each other well. She said her grandson, who she had legal custody of, loved playing hockey and had a lot of friends. She said he was very close to his sister, who is graduating this year from Penticton Secondary School, and quite often hung out with her and her friends. McAdam and Wolanski were friends on Facebook.
“It’s just been so overwhelming. He was so loved by so many friends,” said the grandmother. “We have just seen an outpouring of support from the community.”
The celebration of life memorial for Andrew will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the United Church on Main Street in Penticton. Carie Sandrelli, Andrew’s cousin, issued a statement on behalf of the family.
“It is a true blessing to know that Andrew has touched so many. After such a tragic event our family has taken much comfort in knowing that our society is comprised of such generous, caring and compassionate individuals and organizations. The abundance of financial donations has been overwhelming,” she said.
The family is taking surplus funds that have been donated and directing them into numerous charitable organizations in Andrew’s name. The family is requesting that all future donations be directed to the Jump Start program through Canadian Tire in Penticton, to the Summerland and District Credit Union Summerland Minor Hockey account in trust of Andrew McAdam or to the principal of Penticton Secondary School towards a bursary in his name.
It has been an annual event for graduating students in Penticton to attend the party, which is not sanctioned by the school district. “Sunset,” as it is dubbed, happens before the final day of the school year and another party, “sunrise,” happens the day before the school year starts.
Okanagan Skaha School District superintendent Wendy Hyer said crisis teams were at Pen High on Friday.
Hyer said the district has tried to adopt a proactive approach to the parties, sending letters to parents warning of the dangers and having teachers speaking to their students in class and parents again at PAC meetings.
Last year, the party got out of control as 350 people, some students from other schools and others in their early 20s, showed up causing a disturbance that resulted in at least two students being injured. One teen was charged with impaired driving and a number of others had their licences suspended.
“Most of these events don’t involve grads at all. They involve all the other people that show up for all the wrong reasons,” said Hyer. “We try to explain to parents that this isn’t a school event. It is a dangerous event because there is not just graduates there and there have been injuries and incidents. It is just not a safe place to be.”
She said the parties have been going on for many years, and in the past schools have turned a blind eye to students coming to class the next day hung over or still drunk.
“At some point, we just have to keep our kids at home so we know they are safe.”
But the school district has no direct control over the parties, since they occur outside of school hours and off school grounds.
“We just get to deal with the aftermath,” said Hyer.
Police are still working on the priority task of establishing how many individuals were directly involved.
“We suggest that parents and guardians sit down with their teens to confirm whether or not they were at the party and to contact us with any information that may assist with the investigation,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
Anyone with information regarding the incident is requested to contact the Penticton RCMP at 250-492-4300. For those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. They can also text SOSTIPS and send a message to CRIMES at 274637 or report online at SouthOkanaganCrimestoppers.ca.