Teen fatally stabbed in front of his mother was bullied, family says
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2019 9:44AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 10, 2019 8:48AM EDT
TORONTO – A mother who watched her 14-year-old son be stabbed to death outside of his Hamilton, Ont. high school said bullying had been an ongoing issue.
“Every time I close my eyes it’s there – I don’t close my eyes. If I don’t close my eyes then I can’t relive it,” Shari-Ann Sullivan Selvey said through tears while standing in front of her home two days after her teenage son had died right in front of her eyes.
Flowers and signs reading sentiments such as, “I stand with you” and “have a heart, lend a hand, to help a friend, stop bullying,” filled the lawn outside the family home.
The mother said ever since her son started high school in September, he had been a victim of bullying.
“He missed a lot of class, he would go for some classes and then call me and I’d go pick him up or sometimes he just wouldn’t go, he just refused to go in the morning.”
On Monday afternoon, she said her son, Devan Selvey, called her to Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, located near Parkdale Avenue South and Main Street East, as a group of teenagers were “bothering him.”
“I ran over there and then my day and my life fell apart,” she said.
Shari-Ann Sullivan Selvey described her 14-year-old son as being a bit shy, but added that he was the first person to defend any one of his friends.
“He had a beautiful soul,” she said. “He protected everybody. He stood up to everything that was wrong. He was just a very passionate kid.”
A friend of Selvey told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday that the teenager was “quiet and very giving.”
“He would share with people and he was nice to everyone,” Bobby Shoker said. “I feel sad because he was really close to me and we were close friends and he was really innocent.”
Two teens charged with first-degree murder
Two suspects, an 18-year-old male and a 14-year-old male, both from Hamilton, were taken into police custody after emergency crews were called to the high school around 1:30 p.m. for reports of a violent incident happening just outside.
The pair was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday morning as they appeared in court. Police have alleged that it was the 14-year-old suspect who wielded the knife.
Sgt. Steve Bereziuk said investigators are “satisfied based on evidence that there was some element of pre-planning and pre-meditation to this homicide” while speaking at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
At the news conference, Bereziuk announced that two additional suspects had been arrested in the case.
One day later, Hamilton police said the pair was “released unconditionally” and that investigators were not seeking any additional suspects.
The identity of those facing charges in connection with the fatal stabbing cannot be released due to a publication ban and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Victim’s mother ‘witnessed something horrible’
When emergency crews were called to the scene of the stabbing, Selvey’s mother was by his side.
The teenager was transported to hospital from the scene but succumbed to his injuries a short time later. Police said that an autopsy confirmed the 14-year-old died as a result of a stab wound.
“She was just very upset,” a witness, who only identified herself as Alice, told CTV News Toronto. “She couldn’t stop crying. She had two people beside her, holding her because she was shaking, she was crying and crying.”
“Can you imagine a mother watching her son die on the sidewalk?”
Bereziuk described the victim’s mother as being “distraught and devastated” in the aftermath of what had occurred.
“(The mother) witnessed something horrible here,” he told reporters.
Speaking on Wednesday, Shari-Ann Sullivan Selvey did not wish to speak on what had unfolded that afternoon, as it was too difficult to recall.
“He lost all opportunities,” she said. “He’s never going to grow up. He’s never going to get married. He’s never going to know what it’s like to be a father.”
His mother said she lost two children prior to Selvey’s death and added that her pregnant daughter has been her rock since that tragic afternoon.
“She doesn’t know how to cope with it either but she is trying to be strong for me and I’ve got to be strong for her. She’s the only child I have left. I’ve already lost two. This is not right.”
Shari-Ann Sullivan Selvey said her son was excited to become an uncle.
School was aware of bullying, mother says
As the issue of bullying had been present since the start of the school year, Selvey’s mother said she had voiced her concerns to officials.
“For a month we have been trying to get this dealt with,” she said. “Everyone failed my son. I failed my son. I tried to but I couldn’t get to him in time.”
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the director of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board confirmed that incidents of bullying were reported to the school administration.
“We’re still in shock as a community and as a school board. Like everyone, we’re trying to make sense of what happened. We’re looking to understand the motive, as is our community,” Manny Figueiredo said. “At this time, we continue to cooperate with the police investigation. We have begun our own school-level investigation of the students who were released, in line with our safe school procedures.”
Earlier in the day, Figueiredo said the school has a number of protocols for dealing with bullying.
“One of the interventions we apply, when there is a case of bullying, is that we do reach out to police because each high school has a police liaison officer so when we feel that the bullying incident is severe enough we would reach out to the police so we continue to do that,” Figueiredo told CP24.
“In terms of this case, I am reluctant to speak now because that is evidence as part of the crime investigation.”
Figueiredo said his heart goes out to Selvey’s family at this difficult time.
“I have been hearing what Devan’s mother has been saying, and his step-father, around bullying and it really, across the province, all schools boards, have policies around that and we will, at the right point, review what has happened here because at the essence of bullying it is what was reported and how did people respond,” he said.
“There is a whole range of what we provide as response in terms of measures and in terms of interventions but at this point we are going to cooperate with police because some of our evidence will be the evidence in the crime investigation at this point.”
The school board plans to review its own “safe schools” policy in the wake of this tragedy, Figueiredo said.
"Until we do our own assessment, I would hate to make any kind of conclusion."
On top of the school board reviewing its policies regarding bullying, Shari-Ann Sullivan Selvey said witnesses “need to stand up” and “stop being bystanders.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘rats’ anymore,” she said. “My son was a toothpick and he stood up for people – no one could go near his friends with anything. They couldn’t call his friends names or nothing.”
“Devan would shut it down.”
Bereziuk said “police will continue to work with Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Bereziuk said that investigators are looking into bullying as a factor in the investigation, but would not go into any further details.
“That part of the investigation is growing,” he said. “We will continue to probe the bullying concerns.”
While Bereziuk said that officers have spoken with “dozens of witnesses,” they are continuing to ask anyone with further information to come forward.
Anyone with further information regarding the case is asked to contact investigators at 905-546-4123 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Vigil held Wednesday night
Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil at the Hamilton high school Wednesday night to remember Selvey.
Family members, students and community residents held candles and posters, and some wore T-shirts with calls for an end to bullying written on them.
A number of people said they were attending the vigil because they too have been victims of bullying at the school. Other people said they came because their children were victims.
“Bullying has gone for far too long, I have a son who is in his 40s who was bullied,” a local resident told CTV News Toronto. “It’s time for people in this community, in this country, to stand up against bullying.”
Selvey's mother, and other family members, also attended the vigil.
The organizer of the vigil, Kevin Ellis, said the gathering is meant to “strengthen our children to understand that violence is not the answer to anything in this world.”
“Devan, like a lot of kids, was bullied and silenced for a long time,” he said. “His mother did reach out for help and he was unable to find it.”
“Now, everyone is coming together, but it quite frankly is too late. We need to do something to make sure that Devan’s life is one that shows that a line was drawn in the sand after his death and the community has stepped forward and said ‘enough is enough.’”