Teen met ex-boyfriend before death, police say

Ontario girl dies after skull shattered by aluminum bat during argument

UPDATED AT 1:35 PM EST Saturday, Feb. 22, 2003

Seventeen-year-old Laurel Price was pestered with phone calls from her former boyfriend all afternoon asking her to come to his house and talk about their relationship, which had recently ended, police said.

The dark-haired girl's decision to get into a blue Honda and drive over to the bungalow on a quiet, winding residential street in Toronto's eastern suburb of Scarborough proved fatal.

Ms. Price died of head injuries after being found unconscious Thursday afternoon in the front yard of a bungalow on Lord Roberts Drive.

Her skull was shattered by a blow from an aluminum baseball bat during an argument with her 17-year-old former boyfriend, police said. She died after two operations during the night in Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

"She sure didn't have much of a life, a sad life," one neighbour said, adding that she never saw Ms. Price's mother with a smile on her face, and "Laurel never had a smile either."

Police found the bat used in the assault on a railway track that ran beside a nearby park. Two young men fled to the park after the attack. One was captured after a police chase using tracker dogs. The second turned himself in at 41 Division headquarters a short time later.

Both are charged under the Young Offenders Act and cannot be named. One, a 14-year-old, was charged with assault with a weapon. The 17-year-old, who had been the victim's boyfriend, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Ms. Price lived with her mother and two younger brothers in a modest bungalow on Rutledge Avenue, a couple of blocks from where she was assaulted.

Immediate neighbours said that Ms. Price's father moved out of the home, which has a rented basement apartment, several years ago.

One of the neighbours described Laurel as a "very nice girl" and said she observed her visiting with her boyfriend outside the house.

Another neighbour said Laurel's former boyfriend spent time teaching her brothers skateboarding tricks while she sat on the curb watching.

She said that the children were often left on their own and that their mother kept to herself and did not interact with neighbours.

The neighbour said that Laurel's former boyfriend projected a "rough and tough" image with her brothers and was very loud.

The death may emphasize how vulnerable even young love can be to abusive and violent behaviour, counsellors said yesterday.

The kind of violence alleged is seen with distressing frequency, said Eileen Morrow, co-ordinator of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.

The number of killings by spouses in Canada increased from 131 in 2000 to 183 in 2001, the last year for which Statistics Canada has complete numbers. The average over a decade is 175 a year. There are no separate statistics for teen-aged killings, but there are an average of 24 by current or ex-boyfriends or girlfriends in the country each year.

School social workers now do presentations to alert students to the risks of dating violence and abusive relationships.

"Part of the thinking is that normally kids at this age do not go to their parents with problems. They are going to be talking with their peers," said Janis Beach, social work co-ordinator for the Toronto District School Board. "It is important that their girlfriends talk to them before a relationship becomes really closed off."

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