CALGARY — The mother of a Calgary Stampeders football player told a sentencing hearing Thursday that she’s angry her son survived the crime-filled streets of Detroit only to be gunned down in Canada.
Renee Hill said her son, Mylan Hicks, was a good and righteous man who followed his football dreams north of the border after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League.
Hicks, a 23-year-old player on the practice roster of the Canadian Football League Stampeders, was shot outside Calgary’s Marquee Beer Market in 2016.
Nelson Lugela was convicted earlier this year of second-degree murder.
“When you killed him, you killed me too,” Hill told Lugela as he sat in the prisoner’s box.
At times wiping away tears, the woman told court that her son, “with an almost jungle-like mentality, safely walked through the fire of Detroit,” yet didn’t last one year living in Calgary.
She detailed the darkness and depression she has dealt with since his death. Life isn’t getting any easier, she said, and she’s angry.
She said others in the United States are also angry that Lugela killed one of their own.
“You’ll never be free here. You killed a king’s kid,” she said.
Lugela faces an automatic life sentence and the court must determine how long he should serve before he can apply for parole.
The Crown has asked for an ineligibility period of between 17 and 19 years. The defence said 14 years is appropriate.
“This was a crime that shocked the city,” said prosecutor Gord Haight.
“It is almost the height of irony that Mylan Hicks grew up in Detroit, a city with a reputation for crime and violence and came to Calgary to pursue his career. And it’s here that he was shot and killed by a person who was a stranger to him.”
Lawyer Alain Hepner said his client has cognitive difficulties and lower intelligence. But he is only 21 and there is still hope for him, Hepner said.
He acknowledges Lugela should serve more than the minimum 10 years before being allowed to apply for release.
Justice Keith Yamauchi is to give his ruling Wednesday.
The trial heard that several Stampeders, including Hicks, had been celebrating a victory over Winnipeg in a game hours earlier. A disagreement over a spilled drink in the bar intensified in the parking lot after closing time.
Witnesses testified that after some pushing and shoving, a person who appeared to be holding a handgun opened fire at Hicks as he was running for cover.
Hicks was hit twice, in the abdomen and chest, and died in hospital.
Court heard Lugela and two other young men jumped into an SUV and sped away after Hicks was hit. Three people were arrested about 45 minutes later when they returned to the scene.
Several witnesses identified Lugela as the man holding the gun.
Hill said she always told her son to leave a party 30 minutes early, because the end of the night is where “trouble starts.”
She wishes he had listened.
She told reporters outside of court that there won’t be any closure for her, but she’s glad she got to address her son’s killer.
“It took some weight off me to let Lugela know personally, face-to-face, ‘You robbed me. You robbed me of my son.’