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Teen pleads guilty to manslaughter in Toronto homeless man’s death as new details emerge

One of eight teen girls charged in the death of a homeless man in downtown Toronto has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and for the first time, the public is getting a glimpse of what happened on the night Kenneth Lee died.

Lee, a 59-year-old man police say was living in the city’s shelter system, died in December 2022 after police allege he was swarmed and stabbed by eight teen girls.

Three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds and two 16-year-olds were initially charged with second-degree murder in his death.  A judge recently committed six of the teens to stand trial on second-degree murder and two on the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

The girl who pleaded guilty Thursday was 13 at the time of the incident and is now 15. She is scheduled to return to court on July 12.

‘A bunch of wolves on top of a piece of meat’

In court on Thursday, the girl who pleaded guilty listened quietly with her mother in the courtroom as Crown Mary Humphrey read out the facts that the girl had agreed to.

According to the statement of facts, Lee confronted the girls who were between 13 and 16 years old in a parkette after they took a bottle of alcohol from his friend. Three of the teens started attacking him, just after midnight.

The girl who pleaded guilty admitted she hit, punched, kicked, and spat on Lee while he lay helpless in a planter. His face was bloody and he was disoriented.

During a second wave of the attack, she punched him again.

And during the final wave while others swarmed him, she held onto Lee with her left hand and a hit him with her right hand.

Court heard that at no time during the swarming did she have a knife.

The statement read on Thursday said Lee died of stab wounds to his chest, one that pierced his heart. He also suffered 19 blunt force injuries.

An employee at a nearby shelter heard screaming after she left work and intervened.

The agreed statement of facts quoted her saying, as she described the attack by the girls: “They were a bunch of wolves on top of a piece of meat.”

Lee’s family has spoken out against act

Four other girls are expected to plead guilty in the case in the weeks to come. 

One is expected to plead guilty to manslaughter, but the court has not heard what charges the others are expected to plead guilty to. The remaining three are expected to stand trial in Ontario Superior Court. A trial date has not yet been set. 

None of the accused can be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Lee’s family has previously spoken out against the protection provided by the the Youth Criminal Justice Act, arguing the law does not help victims or the public. 

The act states that the fact that youth are still maturing must be accounted for in the prosecution of crimes. It also emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

A relative described Lee as a “kind soul with a heart of gold.” Community members have said the quiet man from Hong Kong was trying to defend a friend before the attack.

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