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Accused found guilty in Hyatt trial

The 18-year-old girl accused of stabbing Ashlee Hyatt to death has been found guilty of manslaughter and not guilty of second degree murder.

She had faced a murder charge and two assault charges in the incident which took Hyatt's life on June 2, 2010 at a Peachland house party.

The girl, who  wiped tears away throughout the proceedings, sucked in a sob when the jury returned the verdict Sunday afternoon in a Kelowna courtroom. Sobs and shrieks could be heard from the side of the gallery where the Hyatt's family sat throughout the long-running trial.

The girl now faces the possibility of an adult sentence.

Hyatt's mother, Charrie Hyatt, who sat quietly listening to testimony day after day, said she will get to sleep tonight and that Ashlee got justice.

"Now (the accused) has to be accountable for her actions and that's all we wanted, we just wanted her to be accountable for taking a life," she said.

As far as being sentenced as an adult, Hyatt said she would like to see that.

"Oh of course, of course I would. But I know she's going to do some jail time and she's going to have to sit there and be accountable for what she did and sit there and think about what she did"

Her reaction to a possible lengthy sentence was that it does not matter, saying, "the fact that she'd have to sit in jail and be accountable for her actions makes me happy."

Over the course of the trial, which ran for more than three weeks, several witnesses testified -- including friends of Hyatt who were at the party, neighbours and the couple who broke up the party. The doctor who performed the autopsy testified and extensive DNA evidence was provided by experts.

Many described an afternoon and evening of drinking whiskey shots that led to name calling and fights, after the accused allegedly kissed a boy other than her boyfriend. It was during an altercation on the street in front of the home that the accused stabbed Hyatt in the neck with the knife.

The DNA evidence linked Hyatt's blood to the clothing worn by the accused and to the teen who hosted the party that fateful night. Blood on the knife blade was also linked to Hyatt.

When the accused took the stand, she claimed to be defending herself when other girls ganged up on her after she supposedly kissed the boy. She said it was the teen host of the party who had the knife and stabbed Hyatt.

In final days, crown counsel Murray Kaay told the 12-person jury they should not accept the  evidence given by the accused because she was not acting in self defence and meant to cause bodily harm.

Kaay continued by saying the case was about a teenage drinking party like any other teenage drinking party; with drama created by the party hosts. The central drama, however, surrounded the accused and whether or not she was with a boy which led to the insults between friends.

The most believable evidence came from Michael Baxter, the party goer who was not drinking.

Baxter, whose evidence was given at the preliminary inquiry before he died in a car accident, was sober and in the best position to witness what unfolded on the street in front of the residence, said Kaay.

It was Baxter who described the fight between the girls escalating to the point where the accused reached into her purse and pulled out the knife and said "I'll stab you," he said. He too witnessed Hyatt holding  her hand on the side of her neck and the party host trying to get the knife out of the accused's hand.

From this testimony as well as from others who witnessed the fight, it could be concluded the accused was angry enough to take the fight to the next level, said Kaay.

Defence lawyer Donna Turko, in turn, said it was bullies and wannabes who took the party to the next level, with one pinning a scarlet letter on the accused before the others stepped in.

That bullying continued after the incident she claimed, with witnesses continuing to change their evidence against the accused.

"They feel an an injustice has occurred and someone needs to pay for it," she said during the arguments phase.

She also pointed to the forensic evidence given during trial as 'a witness that does not lie'.

In terms of the evidence given by Baxter, he did not get the higher test of cross examination that the other witnesses did, she said, asking the jury if his evidence was what you would want a family member convicted on.

Ultimately, Turko told the jury the death of Hyatt was so tragic it must have been more of an accident at the hands of these young girls.

Following Justice Geoff Barrow's final instructions and recap of the evidence the jury entered deliberations on Friday, reaching their verdict two days later.

For those who spent the last three weeks sitting in the courtroom and waiting two years prior for the case to come to trial there was a sense of relief.

"I have no idea what's going to happen so I'd just like her to go away for long enough for her to maybe realize a little bit about what she's taken from us and what Ashlee's family has lost and we've all lost -- which is a lot. So I'm just glad it's over, it's been a long road," said Samatha Waller, a friend of the Hyatt family.

The next court date is Dec. 3, where a date for sentencing will be chosen. Meanwhile, the accused will remain under her same bail supervisions until that time.

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