Monday, August 08, 2005


Motel killer of prostitute gets 9 years

Jane Seyd

A man who killed a prostitute after flying into a rage when he found out she had once been a man was sentenced to 4« more years in jail by B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm Tuesday, with 4« years credit for time already spent in prison.

Jatin Patel, a 30-year-old man of no fixed address, was sentenced by Dohm this week after pleading guilty to manslaughter March 9 in the slaying of Shelby Tracey Tom, a 40-year-old transgendered prostitute who was found dead in a lane in the Lower Capilano area of North Vancouver on May 31, 2003.

According to an agreed statement of facts entered into court records, Patel had just arrived in Vancouver after being deported from the United States after serving a 60-month jail sentence when he picked up Tom on the Downtown Eastside stroll on May 27, 2003 and agreed to pay her $400 for sex.

Patel took Tom back to Room 214 at the North Vancouver Travelodge at 2060 Marine Dr., and had started to have sex with her when he saw scars he thought indicated a sex-change operation, flew into a rage and choked her. Patel then hid Tom's naked body in a closet while he had sex with a second woman in the room, and left Tom's body there for three days before dumping her in a shopping cart behind Mountain Way Dry Cleaning.

According to the statement of facts, Patel told the second woman Kara Martin - who discovered Tom's body in the closet - "She was a man. It was an accident. I didn't mean to do it." Patel told Martin he lunged at Tom's throat and she died instantly.

Two psychiatrists testified at the sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Dr. Shabeharm Lohrasbe, who interviewed Patel in prison, said Patel described feeling "fear, betrayal, shame, rage and . . . a sense of personal violation" and "immense anger towards the source of the deception" when he discovered Tom had previously had a sex change.

But Crown prosecutor Craig Dykes questioned that, noting the pathologist's report stated Tom appeared outwardly no different from a woman who was born female and had no scars on her body.

"It's unclear how he could have learned of the gender change surgery," he said.

Dr. Roy O'Shaughnessy, who offered a critique of Lohrasbe's psychiatric report, said he thought it would also have been useful to know how Patel came to be familiar with sex-change surgery. "It was clearly something that was not foreign to him," said O'Shaughnessy.

Dykes urged Dohm to give Patel a sentence of seven to 10 years, saying the case underlines the "vulnerability of sex trade workers."

He urged the judge to consider the killing a hate crime, prompted by a reaction to Tom's sexual identity.

"It wasn't the deceased's fault the accused went into a rage when he discovered her gender history," said Dykes. He said the killing was motivated purely by Patel's "sexual insecurity."

But Patel's defence lawyer Brian Coleman said, "Any male can appreciate the significance of what happened to him."

Coleman added Patel was especially sensitive to finding out Tom was transgendered because he had been sexually assaulted by men while in a U.S. jail.

"If he'd known in advance Ms. Tom was a transgendered individual, he would likely have said thank you but no thank you," said Coleman.

Several of Tom's five brothers, his sister and other friends were in court to hear the sentence Tuesday.

As Tom's sister dabbed at tears, Dykes read aloud from a victim impact statement written by Tom's brother David Tom on behalf of the family.

"I lost not only my sister but also my friend," he said.

"We as a family loved her, no matter what her choice was in life."

Jamie Lee Hamilton, an advocate for sex trade workers and friend of Tom's for more than 20 years, said outside the court she was satisfied with the nine-year sentence. But she said she was still disappointed that Patel pleaded guilty to manslaughter rather than the original charge of murder.

"It was a very callous, violent crime," she said.

Hamilton described Tom as an intelligent and generous person. "She loved life and she loved her friends," she said. Hamilton said Tom had got her education degree and hoped one day to get out of the sex trade business.

published on 07/29/2005