Family of gay rights activist describes grief after murder

HALIFAX -- The partner of a well-known gay rights activist beaten to death in Halifax four years ago said he collapsed on the spot when police informed him of Raymond Taavel's death, and was in physical pain for months afterwards.

See Full Article

Darren Lewis' victim impact statement was read into the record during a sentencing hearing for Andre Noel Denny in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Monday. Denny pleaded guilty to manslaughter in November.

Lewis' statement, read in court by Crown attorney James Giacomantonio, described how Lewis crumpled to the floor when police came to the apartment he shared with Taavel and told him his partner was the victim of a homicide.

"In that very instant, my vision blurred, my chest tightened, my breath left me," said Lewis in the statement.

"All I could hear was my heart racing in my ears ... Any semblance of rational thought ceased as I struggled to breathe and tried to make myself wake up from the worst nightmare I had ever had."

Lewis described the physical pain he suffered and the "waves of numbing, desperate nothingness" in the months that followed.

He said he and Taavel had spent 10 years together and were planning on buying a house.

Lewis said the intense sense of loss left him incapable of doing his job as a chef and left him feeling distant from his friends and family.

"Nothing made sense any longer ... I had thoughts of anger, vengeance and despair."

An agreed statement of facts says Denny was impaired by psychosis when he got into an argument with Taavel outside a gay bar, punched him in the head and slammed his face into the pavement.

The statement says Denny failed to return to a Halifax-area forensic psychiatric facility after receiving a one-hour unescorted pass April 16, 2012.

The Crown prosecutor says he will seek a prison sentence of more than six years, while the defence says it will seek a penalty of time served as Denny has been in custody since April 2012.

Judge Peter Rosinski said he will not hand down a sentence at Monday's hearing but instead reserve his decision.

Denny held an eagle feather and listened intently during the hearing. Dressed in a black leather jacket and jeans, he appeared relaxed and did not display any emotion when the victim impact statements were introduced.

In addition to Lewis' statement, Giacomantonio read statements from Taavel's brother, Andre, and employer, Barry Boyce of the former Shambhala Sun magazine.

Taavel's brother Andre said he's still having trouble comprehending the tragedy.

"It's almost as if my mind won't take me there," his statement said.

Andre Taavel's statement, like the other two, spoke of how Raymond Taavel was well known for his kind disposition, constant smile and big hugs.

"On the day we received the news of Raymond's homicide, a piece of us all died that day. I asked myself how such a hug-loving guy die in such a violent manner -- the opposite of what he stood for."

Andre Taavel said his wife and 74-year-old mother have been devastated by the killing.

"When it comes to my mother, I feel as if I'm watching a woman shrink away to skin and bone. The stress and grief have stripped her of many good years of living."

Andre Taavel's statement also spoke about his feelings for Denny, saying he felt nothing but "numbness and indifference."

"I basically couldn't care less about him. His act of evilness is overshadowed by the many stories of people whose lives were changed in a positive way after meeting Raymond. The outpouring of love and support from the community Raymond tried so hard to unite has made us very proud."

A YouTube video shown at Taavel's funeral was played for the court, which included national and local media coverage of the crime and several interviews with Taavel's friends and colleagues.

The 2012 video, called "Remembering Raymond Taavel," also includes footage from the day hundreds of people gathered on Halifax's Gottingen Street to pay tribute to Taavel.

The nine-minute video shows scores of people holding the edges of a massive rainbow flag while others shield candles from the wind.

Those appearing on the video speak of Taavel's hugs, his humility and his local and national work against homophobia. There are personal tributes from high school students, the local member of Parliament and a comment from a co-worker who said, "I can still hear his smile over the phone."

The court was also shown grainy black and white surveillance video footage from inside the Menz Bar, where Taavel and Denny met. The video shows Taavel arriving around 2 a.m. and meeting three other men.

About 20 minutes in, Denny appears and joins the men at the back of the room. After a few minutes, he leaves with one of the men, appearing to help him out of the bar.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • The O’Leary factor is real

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    “I hardly recognize any of these people,” a long-standing Conservative activist said to me as we stood surveying the room at a party for Kevin O’Leary at a downtown Ottawa bar. She meant it as the biggest of compliments. Source
  • Magnitude 4.9 earthquake reported off northwestern Vancouver Island

    Canada News CTV News
    PORT HARDY, B.C. -- An earthquake has jolted the area off northwestern Vancouver Island, the second since Wednesday. The U.S. Geological Survey reports a magnitude 4.9 quake occurred at 4:28 (PT) Friday morning. It was centred 158 kilometres southwest of Port Hardy in the waters off the west coast of the Island and was at a depth of 10 kilometres. Source
  • Florida man charged in death of 4-year-old who shot himself

    World News CTV News
    AUBURNDALE, Fla. -- Authorities say they've charged a central Florida man in the death of a 4-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the face with a gun he found while home alone. The Ledger reports that 26-year-old Demeko DeSean Robinson was arrested Thursday and charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, tampering with evidence and giving false information to a law officer during an investigation. Source
  • Former N.L. premier to take stand in inquiry looking into fatal police shooting

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is set to testify today at the inquiry into the police shooting death of Don Dunphy. Paul Davis is expected to take the stand this morning at the commission looking into the fatal shooting on Easter Sunday 2015. Source
  • Trump can expect receptive crowd at conservative gathering

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Six years ago, as the "money, money, money, money" chorus of his reality TV show's theme song blasted, Donald Trump stepped out before the nation's largest gathering of conservative activists for the first time. Source
  • Australians doubt Trump's commitment to its traditional ally

    World News CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia -- Some Australians foresee trouble in their country's traditionally strong alliance with the United States because of what they see as "unpresidential" behaviour from President Donald Trump, while others think outspoken businessman-turned-Australian-leader Malcolm Turnbull is a good match for him. Source
  • 'Hero' son killed protecting mom during robbery at Texas Subway restaurant

    World News Toronto Sun
    Friends say an 18-year-old is a "hero" after he was fatally shot trying to protect his mother during an attempted robbery at a sandwich shop they both worked at in Houston, Texas. Police say the Javier Flores and his mother were the only people working in the southeast Houston Subway restaurant near closing time Wednesday night when two assailants rushed in and pointed a gun at the woman. Source
  • Car bomb near Syria town captured from IS kills 35 people

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- A car bombing north of a Syrian town just captured by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from the Islamic State group killed at least 35 people on Friday, mostly civilians who had gathered trying to go back home, Turkey's news agency and Syrian activists said. Source
  • Alberta fatality report recommends strict rules for extreme driving events

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- A judge says unregulated extreme driving stunts such as the one that led to the death of an Edmonton university student should be banned. The recommendation is in a fatality report into the May 18, 2013, death of Melinda Green. Source
  • South Africa anti-immigrant protests erupt in capital

    World News CTV News
    PRETORIA, South Africa -- Police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon Friday as the latest wave of anti-immigrant protests broke out in South Africa's capital, while President Jacob Zuma condemned anti-foreigner violence and appealed for calm. Source