Third girl pleads guilty in swarming death of Toronto man Kenneth Lee

Another girl has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2022 swarming death of a 59-year-old man in Toronto’s downtown core.

The girl, who was 13 years old at the time of Kenneth Lee’s death, entered her plea in court Monday morning.

Two other girls, who were also 13 at the time, have since pleaded guilty in the case – one to manslaughter and the other to assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon. A fourth girl is expected to enter her plea on Wednesday.

Lee was swarmed by the group and stabbed just after midnight on Dec. 18, 2022, in the area of York Street, University Avenue and Front Street West. He was rushed to the hospital, where he later died.

Eight teenage girls — three 13-year-olds, three 14-year-olds, and two 16-year-olds — were initially charged with second-degree murder in Lee’s death. Police said the teen girls met on social media and assembled in downtown Toronto, where they were first involved in another criminal but “non-assaultive” incident. 

Kenneth Lee
Kenneth Lee, 59, of Toronto, was fatally stabbed near York Street, University Avenue and Front Street West on Dec. 18, 2022. HANDOUT/Toronto Police Service.

“It’s our belief that their purpose was to remove property from him and a companion that he was with,” Det. Sgt. Terry Browne said early on in the investigation. “It’s our belief it was a liquor bottle. During that altercation, they used a sort of group gathering to attack the victim.”

The accused have not been identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) provisions because they are all under 18. The YCJA 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.

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

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.

Lee’s family has said he was in the homeless shelter system after falling on tough times but was making an effort to get his life back on track.

“… Ken was a kind soul with a heart of gold. He was not in the system due to alcohol or drug abuse,” read a statement from Lee’s family. “He was a man with pride who had fallen and wanted to learn to stand up on his own, knowing that he always had his family behind him. Maybe in due time, we will share more with you.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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