Mother of slain Hamilton teen says 'everyone' failed her son

By The Canadian Press
October 9, 2019 - 12:56pm

HAMILTON — A mother who witnessed her son being stabbed to death outside his high school broke her silence on Wednesday, blaming the system for failing to protect the 14-year-old from the "bullies" she said made his first month of school a nightmare.

Shari-Ann Bracci-Selvey broke down in tears as she spoke to reporters for the first time since her son Devan died near Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Hamilton on Monday afternoon.

Another 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man are currently facing first-degree murder charges in his death, which police have described as premeditated.

Bracci-Selvey spared no one when describing who was responsible for her son's death, saying everyone — from the school he attended to his own family — let him down.

"Everyone failed my son," she said. "Even I did. I tried to save him and I couldn't."

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board Education Director Manny Figueiredo confirmed the school had received complaints about bullying against Devan, but did not provide details.

"As a board, we will also conduct a formal review of our Safe Schools practices when the police and school investigations are complete," he said in an emailed statement Wednesday. He said the community was still "in shock" and "trying to make sense of what happened."

Figueiredo previously said the accused in the case are either past or present students at Sir Winston Churchill.

Bracci-Selvey said her son had been viciously bullied since the second day of the school year, when tormentors allegedly stole his bike. He had been harassed ever since, she said.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Hamilton Police Det.-Sgt. Steve Bereziuk said the family had filed a report about the stolen bike last month. He added the accused in that case are not the same teens now facing murder charges.

Bracci-Selvey said Devan missed a lot of classes, either by outright refusing to go to school or calling her asking to be picked up early.

She did not say if such a call was what brought her to the school Monday afternoon, but said she has yet to come to terms with "the horror" she witnessed firsthand.

"I haven't slept, I haven't eaten — every time I close my eyes it's there," she said through tears. "So if I don't close my eyes, I can't relive it."

Bracci-Selvey said her son was not the only target of the bullying, and often shielded his friends who faced similar harassment.

An obituary for the teen describes a boy with a "passion for old cars, video games and a loving heart for animals."

Hamilton police had previously arrested four people in connection with his death, but later released two 16-year-olds without charges.

Bereziuk declined to say why the charges that police expected to be laid against those teens were abandoned.

He confirmed, however, that the 14-year-old boy is believed to have been the one wielding the knife that killed Devan. The identity of the adult suspect is protected by a publication ban, while the name of the 14-year-old cannot be released under the terms of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Bereziuk said the investigation remains active, noting investigators have not yet spoken to Devan's mother in an effort to allow her to cope with her pain.

"I'm not going to push her right now," he said. "I can't imagine what she's going through, so I'm going to give her a lot of rope. And when she's available to contact me and sit down and meet, then my door's open."

- By Michelle McQuigge in Toronto

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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