A Lethbridge man faces up to life in prison for stabbing to death a college student during a celebration in Coalhurst more than two years ago.
In an unexpected move, Harpal Singh Dhillon pleaded guilty Monday in Lethbridge Court of Queens Bench to one charge of manslaughter and two charges of assault with a weapon. His sentencing before Justice Rodney A. Jerke is scheduled for May 24, 2013.
Dhillon was scheduled for a two-week trial beginning Monday, but in an agreed statement of facts admitted he stabbed to death Jiwanjyot Singh Ghai just before midnight on Nov. 20, 2010 at the Coalhurst Community Centre. Originally charged with second-degree murder, assault with a weapon and aggravated assault, Dhillon instead pleaded to the lesser charges. Assault with a weapon carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Crown prosecutor Vaughan Hartigan told court Ghai was stabbed during a confrontation at a Diwali, or Festival of Lights celebration. Ghai was helping his family cater the celebration when he intervened in a confrontation between his younger brother, Akash, and the accused. Moments later Ghai was on the ground and Dhillon was on top striking him.
Ghai was stabbed eight times, including once in the central portion of his chest in which he sustained a 7.5 centimetre wound.
"This was identified by the medical examiner as the fatal wound to Mr. Ghai's heart," Hartigan said.
Ghai was struck twice more in the chest, once in the face, once in the upper right arm, and twice in the upper left arm. The knife also went all the way through his right hand.
Two other men were also injured during the attack. A witness, Harkirat Sodhi, attempted to pull the accused off Ghai and felt a blow to his shoulder. It wasn't until he returned home that he realized he had been cut by the knife.
Seconds later, Sukhvir Mann, a volunteer serving guests at the celebration, who thought the two men were fighting, tapped Dhillon on the back and told them to stop. Dhillon swung the knife at him slicing him in the forehead.
The accused then fled in a vehicle, passing an RCMP cruiser rushing to the incident after receiving a 911 dispatch.
Hartigan told court Dhillon disposed of the knife - it's never been found - and gave himself up to the Calgary Police Service four days later.
Dhillon remains free on $10,000 bail and he must continue following conditions of his release. His curfew, however, was lifted.
Victim impact statements will likely be read and witnesses are expected to give evidence when the accused returns for sentencing in May.