Ted Colley, Surrey Now
Published: Friday, July 10, 2009
The last six minutes of Matthew Martins' young life were captured -- in all their horror -- by a security camera outside Surrey Central SkyTrain station.
The camera recorded the unimaginably vicious murder of the 16-year-old boy at the hands of Robert Forslund, 28 at the time of the killing. Forslund is serving life for the murder. His girlfriend Katherine Quinn, now 27, was also convicted of second-degree murder for aiding and abetting Forslund, but has been granted a new trial after an appeal court panel found fault with the trial judge's instructions to the jury.
Those six minutes also provided the title of a book written by Sandra Martins-Toner, the murdered boy's mother.
The Last Six Minutes: A Mother's Loss and Quest for Justice is Martins-Toner's attempt to give her dead son a kind of immortality, to ensure he will never be forgotten. Writing the book also served as catharsis for its author.
Matthew's murder set her adrift in a heretofore unknown and frightening world where young boys die for apparently trivial reasons, and mothers can do nothing to save them.
Matty's death left his mother struggling with guilt, fear, sorrow and a deep, burning hatred for those who took him from her. There were days when Martins-Toner's mind was filled with dark fantasies of taking violent revenge on her son's killers. There were days, many days, of overwhelming despair, days when Martins-Toner felt unable to go on.
She admits to thinking about ending it all, but thoughts of her family stayed her hand. There were her two surviving sons, Mitchell and Braydan, and she was pregnant with Chhaya, her daughter. There was David, her husband, and her sisters.
"Suicide? I can't say I never thought about it, but I couldn't. It would have hurt too many others. There were times I, honest to God, thought this is not worth it, all the pain," she told the Now.
"You can't see two months -- even two days -- ahead. You just can't."
And then there was Matty. Martins-Toner believes one day she and her son will be together again in Heaven, a place her religion teaches is denied to suicides. She won't do anything to jeopardize that reunion.
"One day, when it's my time, I'll be with Matty."
Until that day, Martins-Toner realized, she had to find a way to live in this world and with the reality of his death.
Her experiences dealing with the criminal justice system eventually led her -- with the tireless assistance of David and others -- to the formation of Families Against Crime and Trauma, a victim's advocacy group dedicated to helping others in similar circumstances contend with the aftermath of violent crime. FACT also lobbies governments for changes to laws it believes work too much to the benefit of criminals and too little for victims and their survivors.
Martins-Toner credits Wallace Gilby Craig, a former provincial court judge, with setting on that path. Craig gave her a book, Victims: Orphans of Justice, that told the story of a family's toils in the criminal justice maze after falling victim to crime.
"It was, I think, written in the '80s, and when I read it, I thought, 'Nothing has changed.' That's when I started to think about reaching out to others to let them know they're not alone, that there are others like them out there."
When Matty was killed, Martins-Toner was plunged into a world she knew nothing about, a world where victims don't always count for much. She didn't know how the system worked or how to find out. FACT was created to change that.
"I decided right from the start that I was going to be heard. I wanted everyone there to understand that's not a file number you're holding, that's my little boy, and he was loved."
Martins-Toner got lucky. The prosecutors who handled the murder case have been very sympathetic, going to great lengths to keep her in the loop.
Others haven't been so fortunate, so FACT is there to help.
"We reach out to other families and guide them through the process. Some people think it's healthier to put things behind you and move on. Matty was my best friend and I can't do that. If I hadn't done this, hadn't reached out to others, I think I would have already lost my mind," Martins-Toner said.
"From the beginning, it's always been, what can I do to keep Matty's story alive? I don't want him to have died in vain. I want his death to change things."
FACT's profile is growing with every day and, thanks to his mother, the life and death of Matthew Lee Martins is in no danger of being forgotten.
Martin-Toner's book is due for release in bookstores in later this summer and is available now online at www.aaspirationspublishing.com/the-last-six-minutes.html.
THE MURDER OF MATTHEW MARTINS: A TIMELINE
- About 2 a.m. on July 2, 2005, Robert Forslund brutally beats Matthew Martins and slashes his throat outside Surrey Central SkyTrain station after a confrontation between the victim and Forslund's girlfriend, Katherine Quinn.
- 9:45 a.m., July 2, 2005, life support is disconnected and Matthew, too badly injured to breath on his own, dies.
- Within days, Forslund and Quinn are charged with second-degree murder.
- Trial begins Feb. 26, 2007; on April 14, 2007, both are found guilty. Both get life in prison with Forslund denied parole for at least 17 years and Quinn for 10 years.
- December 2008, Quinn appeals.
- June 12, 2009, Quinn's appeal is successful and a new trial is ordered. She subsequently applies for bail pending the second trial.
- July 3, 2009, a bail hearing for Quinn is adjourned until July 22 when the court asks for more information about her behaviour while in prison.
© Surrey Now 2009