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Samantha Le and Xuan Van Vy Ba-Cao were murdered by six men in 2016 after walking into a B.C. residence and witnessing an ongoing kidnapping which involved torture.
Both 29-year-old Le and 24-year-old Ba-Cao were parents and have left behind one child each. Their families are now appalled by the judge’s decision to give each of the criminals sentences lasting under fifteen years.
The kidnapping occurred over multiple days and included extensive torture to extort money from the kidnapping victim, who has remained unnamed. He survived the 45-hour ordeal but has been permanently affected by the crimes committed.
When Le and Ba-Cao entered the residence, they were both apprehended before being shot in the back of the head.
According to Global News, “The victim was then forcibly confined in a house in Surrey for two days. He was held in a “kill room,” which had plastic sheeting on the walls and ceiling.
“He was told there was a $250,000 hit on his head — but he had “the option of buying himself out of it through payment of $1 million in cash, drugs or jewellery,” according to court documents.
“The ransom was later lowered to $500,000.”
As none would admit to pulling the trigger, the judge charged all six as equally culpable in the manslaughter of the two victims.
The ruling judge, Justice Silverman, called the murders “brutal,” adding that the kidnapping lasted days and that bolt cutters and blowtorches were utilized.
In May, the CBCreported that the Crown was seeking “a total of 38 years in prison for the combination of charges: 20 years for manslaughter in the deaths of Le and Ba-Cao and 18 years to be served consecutively for extortion, kidnapping and aggravated assault.”
However, the amount of time each of the convicted murderers will receive is substantially less.
The six were all sentenced on the same day.
“Ellwood Bradbury, Gopal Figueredo, Shamil Ali and Matthew Stewart were given 18-year sentences for the offences, all to be served at the same time. Minus time served, all four will spend less than 15 years in jail,” reports CBC.
Erlan Acosta was given a 14-year sentence for his crimes, also served concurrently, meaning he will only spend 10 years in prison.
Herinam Cox, the youngest of the group, will serve 12-year sentences, also to be served concurrently, meaning he will only spend 8 years in prison. In the case of Cox, the judge noted that, as he has no prior criminal record, he is likely the only one who could be potentially rehabilitated.
“This isn’t like manslaughter that goes wrong when you have an assault or a punch where emotions are high. This was an execution with two shots to the head,” Crown counsel Karima Andani had told Justice Arne Silverman.
According to Andani, Ba-Cao’s four-year-old son witnessed his father’s death as well as Le. He was, then, left alone with their bodies for several hours.
“This strikes at the human condition for how we care for children,” Andani said.
“Both my family and soul collapsed because there was nothing to hold onto. There are no words to describe it,” Ba-Cao’s mother wrote in May.
“What do I have to do to hold my child in my arms?”
“I just want to let the whole world know that a sentence like that it’s not fair for our family. They should let them stay in there for the rest of their lives,” Ba-Cao’s mother said.
The murder also happened on the day of Le’s daughter’s birthday. Her daughter, 12 at the time, now 14, had been staying with friends at the time of the incident. She now feels tremendous, undeserved guilt over the death of her mother. She is haunted by the idea that the chain of events may have been different if she had been with her mother the day she died.
“I spend a lot of time crying: when I’m driving, when I’m home, when I’m sleeping, when I’m awake,” Le’s sister wrote, who is now taking care of Le’s daughter. “The memory of my sister and the circumstances surrounding her death are constantly on my mind.”
“I’m constantly trying to figure out how she felt at the moment when she realized she was about to lose her life.”
“You robbed [Le’s daughter] of a life together with her mother on her birthday weekend.”
The killers, upon hearing their short prison sentences, jeered at the victims’ families on the way out of the court room, even blowing kisses, and showed no remorse for what they had done.
The judge said that the possibility of rehabilitation was a factor in his final judgment.