“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, stop!” Esa Carriere yelled, as kicks and punches rained down on him, moments before he was fatally stabbed through the heart.
The 23-year-old had moved from Ontario just a few weeks before he was killed in downtown Kelowna on the evening of July 1, 2018, as fireworks from the annual Canada Day celebrations erupted overhead.
On Thursday, Justice Alison Beames sentenced the man who killed Carriere, 23-year-old Noah Vaten, to another one year and 11 months in jail, followed by three years of probation. His total sentence, before time already served, was four years and three months.
The sentencing of Vaten brings to a close the three-and-a-half year-old case, following a partial trial that began in February 2021 and continued, with some delays, through to September. Despite the lengthy trial, Vaten pleaded guilty to manslaughter near the end of the trial on Sept. 28, 2021. While he claims to have no memory of the night in question, during his cross-examination, Vaten said he came to realize he had in fact delivered the fatal stab wound, and he pleaded guilty.
Carriere’s parents, Robert and Nazneen Carriere, were in Kelowna Supreme Court during Thursday’s sentencing hearing, and both fought through tears as they told the court how their son’s death had impacted them.
“This is not something I would dare wish on anyone,” Nazneen said. “When I gave birth to Esa, I have so many hopes and dreams for him, and now they have all been taken away.
“What disturbs me the most is the senseless death of my son. How could someone act so carelessly in a manner that would ultimately take someone’s life? It is so hard to come to terms with the loss of Esa; my eyes are always filled with tears and my heart with grief and my body with pain. ”
Robert Carriere said his family has been able to find comfort in their Islamic faith, and he began his victim impact statement with a prayer in Arabic.
“A massive hole was torn into my life when Esa died and I have been looking through that hole ever since,” Robert said. “Everything around me brings back memories of Esa … I vividly imagine what happened to my son every time, reliving his death myself … how he lay there in the ground, soaked in his blood.
“It’s been 1,341 days since you took my son’s life,” Robert said, addressing Vaten. I’m doubtful if you understand your actions, but all I can do is pray that you realize what you have done is immensely wrong … My heart longs to see you endure genuine self-reflection, self-transformation guided by faith. My heart longs to see you hold yourself accountable. ”
The Crown and defense’s sentencing positions were far apart coming into Thursday’s sentencing hearing, with the Crown seeking a sentence of up to seven years, minus the two years and four months of enhanced credit for time already served, while Vaten’s defense counsel Glenn Verdurmen sought a sentence of time served, with an additional three years of probation. Ultimately, Justice Beames sentenced Vaten to four years and three months in prison, minus the time already spent in custody.
Vaten’s co-accused, Nathan Truant, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last fall as well, and was sentenced to time served. Two others who were involved in the attack, and were 17 at the time, were also charged and convicted.
Near the end of her victim impact statement, Nazneen addressed Vaten directly, asking him: “Are you sorry?”
Vaten was barely able to reply through his tears, answering, “I am.”
She asked Vaten to pray to God for forgiveness.
“He’s the most merciful and he can even forgive you,” she said. “I pray to God he can give you any guidance that you need and I pray that you will discover who you are, because that person on Canada Day is not you.”
On the night of the killing, Vaten had been drinking heavily, and used cocaine. While he testified that he had only used cocaine once before, he said he’d been drinking hard alcohol daily for years at the time. He told the court Thursday that he’s drunk alcohol once since his arrest in January 2019, but other than the one time, he hasn’t had a drop of alcohol.
“I think the only way I could truly honor Esa’s life is by trying to be a better me; trying to get a job, trying to get an education and to be a good person … I want to make a promise to Esa’s family that from now on, I will always be the better human being I can to honor Esa, ”Vaten told Justice Beames near the end of sentencing submissions Thursday.
“I’m not opposed to going to jail or anything that, I think whatever makes Esa’s family have an easier time through this is what I deserve.”
Verdurmen outlined Vaten’s upbringing in BC’s Interior, where he was living on the streets with his father, and on his own, for years. Vaten only completed a Grade 8 education, and he was sleeping in parks, church alcoves, friend’s garages and other rough areas for years leading up to July 1, 2018. Verdurmen noted it was “somewhat remarkable” Vaten had no prior criminal record, given his rough upbringing.
Vaten said he was unable to explain why he stabbed Carriere on the night in question, as he said he still does not remember what happened.
Crown prosecutor Colin Forsyth said Vaten and Carriere had been arguing about a possible debt moments before the killing, according to witness statements, before Carriere punched Vaten. A friend of Vaten’s then punched Carriere, who tried to flee, before several people jumped on top of him and began kicking and punching. Witnesses said Carriere was yelling “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and “stop,” before Vaten inflicted the fatal stab wound to Carriere’s chest. Vaten has previously testified he had never met Carriere prior to that evening.
Career had worked an eight-hour shift at Kelly O’Bryan’s earlier in the day, where he had recently gotten a job as a cook. His mother, Nazneen, said she had pleaded with her son not to move to Kelowna when he left the family home in Mississauga, Ontario in the spring of 2018.
“On the day Esa was leaving home, I pleaded with him to stay. Shortly after he arrived in Kelowna, he sent a message to me saying he had made it safe to BC, ‘safe and sound’ with a big heart. It made me feel so nice. How wrong was he, ”Nazneen said.
“I promised Esa I would visit him in British Columbia, being here today was not what either of us meant.”