Mom fights for son's memory
Her son was brutally murdered in Surrey two years ago.
His killers have been tried, convicted and sentenced. Reporters have moved on to other things, but Sandra Martins-Toner and her family can't escape their grief, the nearly overwhelming sense of loss.
"It's kind of surreal," she said.
"Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday. Sometimes it seems like I haven't heard his voice or seen his beautiful face forever."
Matthew Martins was just 16 when he left this world. He was beaten to death at Surrey Central SkyTrain station in the early morning hours of July 2, 2005.
Robert Forslund, 29, and Katherine Quinn, 24, were convicted in April of killing Matthew and are serving life sentences for second-degree murder. Forslund must serve 17 years before applying for parole and Quinn, 10 years. Quinn is appealing her conviction.
Forslund, tall and powerfully built, viciously beat Matthew, only five feet three inches tall and 125 pounds, and left him for dead. Quinn was convicted of inciting her boyfriend to attack, an accusation she denies still.
As Sandra talks about her son's death, his killers and the effect the ordeal has had on her and the ones she loves, her determination to carry on for their sake dominates. Occasionally though, the darkness closes in and tears come.
The utter horror of Matthew's murder haunts her. The world frightens her now. Sandra worries endlessly that something bad will happen to Matthew's younger brothers, Mitchell, 15, and 10-year-old Braydon.
"I'm always on them, afraid to let them out of my sight. I think I'm smothering them. I try not to do that, but it's so hard."
The boys are also consumed by their brother's death. They're both getting counseling to help with the fear and uncertainty unleashed that night, but it's a struggle.
Matthew's diminutive size made him the object of teasing and worse. Less than a year before his death, he was assaulted by a group of teens in Vancouver. They were out to steal his chain and crucifix. He was knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly until a passing motorist scared off his assailants.
"He was so small. He struggled all his life with that. He used to say, 'I'm an easy target,'" Sandra said.
"When he was around nine years old he was angry and bitter about it, but when he got to be about 14, he decided he couldn't do anything about his size and just accepted it. He struggled all his life to fit in somewhere, for acceptance. He finally came into his own and then something like this happened."
She and Matthew's father parted company long ago and David Toner has been the man in her life for the past 10 years and her husband for six. The murder turned all their lives upside down, but the family stands together, each member doing all he can to help the others.
"It's tested us, I'll tell you. I think it has strengthened us because we have to lean on each other," David said.
The extended family has become closer, too, since Matthew's death, but it hasn't worked that way with some of their friends.
"Some of them have just drifted away. I think they just don't know how to act with us; what to say," David said.
Not content to suffer their grief in silence, Sandra and David have teamed up with Nina Rivet, a North Surrey resident whose sister Irene Thorpe was killed by street racers in November 2000.
Together, they've formed FACT - Families Against Crime and Trauma - an advocacy group for victims of crime and their families. FACT will also lobby for changes in the justice system.
David said 10 per cent of criminals are responsible for 80 per cent of crime and the law must change to curb them.
"If you could lock them up and keep them locked up, that would reduce crime dramatically."
To learn more about FACT, visit www.familiesagainstcrime.org.
published on 06/29/2007