Man, 21, acquitted of manslaughter in Boxing Day shooting death of Toronto teen

Jane Creba. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Police

TORONTO - A man charged with manslaughter in the Boxing Day 2005 death of Toronto teen Jane Creba was acquitted Tuesday after a judge ruled merely being present when the murder was committed doesn't make him guilty.

The 21-year-old man, known only as G.C. because he was underage at the time of the gunfight in downtown Toronto, was not alleged to have been armed or having fired a weapon. Rather, the Crown argued that he was part of a "common unlawful purpose."

"A person cannot be guilty of manslaughter merely because he was present when his companions committed murder. He must have some actual connection to the wrongdoing," Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy said in handing down her decision.

"The inference alleged by the Crown simply cannot be logically drawn. Accordingly, I find G.C. not guilty of manslaughter."

Creba, a Grade 10 student, was shopping with her mother and sister when she was caught in the crossfire of the shootout between rival gangs.

The crime became a flashpoint for the city's anger over what had been a year rife with gun murders. The shootout took place on what is traditionally Toronto's busiest strip for Boxing Day bargain hunters - Yonge Street.

Six other people were injured in the shooting, but apparently none of the participants, all of whom fled the scene immediately after the gun battle which lasted less than 60 seconds.

In late December, 27-year-old Jeremiah Valentine pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death and was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 12 years.

In November, four men were acquitted in the case after Crown said there was no reasonable prospect for a conviction against the four, who were facing manslaughter charges.

Two men, who cannot be named, are slated to stand trial on second-degree murder charges this year.

Outside court Tuesday, defence lawyer Peter Copeland said the case against G.C. "had a very serious impact on him."

"He's been under strict house arrest for the last 3 1/2 years, from the age of 17 to 21," Copeland said.

"In terms of a lawsuit, there's obviously nothing at this time. I can't comment on whether that may change at some point."

In 2008, a jury found Jorrell Simpson-Rowe guilty of second-degree murder in Creba's death.

Simpson-Rowe, who was 17 at the time of the killing, was sentenced as an adult rather than a youth. The decision meant he received an automatic life sentence, with no chance of parole for seven years.

Gun violence claimed 52 lives in Toronto in 2005, prompting calls for Ottawa to ban handguns. Just days after Creba's death, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a $51-million package that included expedited police recruit training, construction of a $26-million guns-and-gangs police operations centre and $5 million for Toronto police.