Samantha McAdam points out the words “Blood is Thicker Than Water” tattooed above her heart while standing outside the Penticton courthouse.
A memorial to her brother Andrew McAdam, who was senselessly killed when a knife pierced his heart, and perhaps one of the reasons she may never accept the apology the man who plead guilty to manslaughter offered during sentencing on Tuesday.
Jamie Wolanski was sentenced to six years in a federal penitentiary for manslaughter, with credit given for 3.5 months, leaving him with a total of 68.5 months to serve.
“I must take responsibility and ask for forgiveness,” said Wolanski while addressing the court. “I feel like I have to be better in my life not only for myself but for Andrew.”
While reading a tearful victim impact statement, McAdam’s mother Linda Childs said on June 17, 2011 she drove her only son, who was in Grade 11, and daughter who was graduating to a bush party in the rural Carmi area. She said her truck was overheating but she turned back.
“I kissed them both and told them I love them and to stay safe,” she said.
It would be the last time she would see her son alive.
It was on that night McAdam and Wolanski both ended up at the same grad bush party ubiquitously known as “sunset.” McAdam’s sister said her little brother was having the “time of his life.”
Crown counsel Deb Drissell said witnesses provided statements that Wolanski had come armed with a 10-inch steel pipe, a 40 ounce bottle of vodka, 15 beers and a two-litre of wine coolers to split amongst friends. She said Wolanski was heard saying he was there to beat up kids and to “kill someone” and had texted a friend asking for the drug MDMA. When he found out that wasn’t available he texted to bring a weapon and drinks would be free.
The friend complied with the request bringing a knife with a four-to-five inch blade that actually had once belonged to Wolanski. It is believed that is the weapon that ultimately pierced McAdam’s heart, dropping him to the ground, dead almost immediately. Wolanski never disclosed what he did with the weapon.
Drunk and belligerent that evening, Wolanski had been in several scuffles at the party including one where six to seven party-goers threw dozens of blows at him while he was turtled on the ground. A separate argument saw him exchange aggressive slaps to the face with another male and then Wolanski traded headbutts with someone.
Eventually he made it to his tent where he borrowed one of his friends cell phones and called his stepmother to pick him up. As he began walking away from the party and towards Penticton, witnesses said they heard Wolanski yell something back at a group. Hayden Scott, who had heard a rumour at the party that Wolanski attacked someone with a pipe, decided to go after Wolanski. Unfortunately McAdam tagged along.
Scott told RCMP he asked McAdam to stay across the road and that the 16-year-old was not known to be a fighter while Wolanski had a reputation. Scott ended up in a wrestling match with Wolanski until he felt his arm go numb and could not fight any longer. Scott saw blood and asked Wolanski if he had stabbed him, as it turns out he did in the chest causing a cut that had to be sewed up with four stitches. McAdam’s role in the melee was unclear but Scott said he was crumpled on the ground like he had been knocked out with a punch.
Defence council Clarke Burnett said the death was the result of a set of tragic circumstances. His client had grown dependent on cocaine, alcohol in the months prior to the party. He said Wolanski knew of trouble occurring at the sunset party in previous years and made the wrong choice to come armed thinking it would intimidate others to not mess with him. Burnett reminded the court of Scott’s testimony where he stated he was in a “blind rage” when he came at Wolanski. He said his client had told Scott he had enough and just wanted to leave the party, but instead a fight broke out and Wolanski flailed with his knife stabbing Scott and killing McAdam. Burnett said once at hospital, Wolanski saw a hectic scene as McAdam was brought in and he immediately summoned over a police officer to say he believed he had something to do with it. Wolanski breached his conditions while out on bail on this matter, including being found in possession of methamphetamine. Burnett said the 21-year-old has since changed things around for himself.
“He is a young man that is and can and will be rehabilitated,” said defence council.
Judge Gail Sinclair told the packed courtroom, who were ushered in through a metal detector, that manslaughter was the proper charge in this case, not the original charge of second-degree murder. Crown argued Wolanski used a weapon without giving those he was attacking a chance to assess their peril or withdraw. She was seeking the higher end of a five to seven year term and Sinclair agreed.
McAdam’s family read emotional letters to the court while friends and family wept in the gallery. They told the story of a young man who loved hockey, his family, friends, took piano lessons and was a hero to his nephews. They all are now left with a gaping hole in their life that has caused emotional upheaval and caused McAdam’s father to turn to alcohol. He was watching the sentencing via video from substance abuse treatment program at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre, serving time for charges he received after his only son’s death. Carie Sandrelli, McAdam’s cousin said the family was forced to sift through photos the days following his death instead of celebrating his 17th birthday.
“That knife not only punched a hole in Andy’s heart, but the family’s as well,” she said.