He Didn’t Deserve to Die, Says Mom – The Chronicle Herald: Sunday, June 4, 2006

DIGBY – The pain was too much for Heather Hartling as she recalled how her teenage son would sit on the couch and affectionately play with her hair.

“Every time I blink, I see his face,” she said of her son, Bradley Gates.

The 19-year-old died last summer after he was stabbed in the torso during a dispute in an apartment in Caledonia, Queens County.

Memories Ms. Hartling thought she had come to grips with overwhelmed her after a fresh turn of events took her right back to the night last August when her son was killed.

On Thursday, the day Aaron Zinck’s preliminary inquiry was to begin in Bridgewater provincial court, the special prosecutor handling the case dismissed the second-degree murder charge.

Mr. Zinck, 19, and his lawyer, Josh Arnold, both claim he was acting in self-defence the night he stabbed Mr. Gates. They alleged Mr. Gates was one of at least half a dozen people who broke into Mr. Zinck’s mother’s apartment and began assaulting people in an attempt to get Mr. Zinck’s 15-year-old girlfriend out of the apartment.

Ms. Hartling says she’s “in total shock” over prosecutor Craig Botterill’s decision to withdraw the murder charge.

“It’s not right and I don’t know where to go, what to do,” she said Friday. “To me nothing is resolved. Where is the justice for me and my family?”

She said she has many unanswered questions and would like to have seen the preliminary inquiry go ahead. That way, she said, a judge could have ruled whether there was enough evidence to proceed to trial or if the charge should have been dismissed.

“There are other ways to defend yourself,” she said. “You don’t have to pick a knife up and stab somebody.”

Mr. Botterill could say little about the case because charges are still active against four others allegedly involved in the dispute, including Ms. Hartling’s ex-husband, Paul Gates.

Ms. Hartling wept as she recalled the last time she spoke with her son. She took him grocery shopping to stock up the cupboards in his new home, but she said he was in a rush to get to work and didn’t spend much time with her.

The family, including Bradley’s sister and grandmother, were gathered at Grand Lake for a family get-together a week later, anxiously waiting for Bradley to join them. He never made it. He died early on Aug. 7 from a single stab wound.

“I went to see him (at the hospital), but they wouldn’t let me,” Ms. Hartling said. “He had already been gone 3 ½ hours by then.”

She said her son was no hooligan and did not deserve to die.

“Bradley was always there for his friends, always there for his family. He had one of the biggest hearts you ever could imagine. Bradley was not this brutal person.”

Author: Beverly Ware – South Shore Bureau

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