Michael Brack was just 16 when he was fatally stabbed in the neck with a steak knife during a botched Gold Coast drug deal.
But the man who killed him has avoided punishment after a Brisbane Supreme Court jury found he acted in self-defence.
Following a day of deliberations, Ryan John Howes was on Tuesday acquitted of the murder and manslaughter of the teen during the November 14, 2015 drug deal.
The jury found Howes had heard "two clicks" from what he believed was a gun, before he knifed the 16-year-old in the neck.
The 10cm blade went about 8cm into Michael's body and almost severed an artery.
He bled to death a short time later in a nearby street.
Throughout the trial it was heard Howes had been drinking during the afternoon and night, before arranging to meet the teen and a carload of his friends at a Bundall shopping centre.
Michael's friend Reece Rowe gave evidence they were going to sell Howes 14 grams' worth of cannabis for $160.
When he asked if he could have a lift to his house nearby to get the money, Michael said no.
Mr Rowe claimed Howes then "flipped" and an altercation ensued.
But Howes' legal team questioned several witnesses about whether they had ever intended to sell him drugs or had instead gone, armed with a gun, to rip him off.
There was no dispute he had caused Michael's death.
The jury had to decide whether a gun was drawn during the fight and if Howes then acted in self-defence.
Throughout the trial it emerged Mr Rowe had a replica pistol.
The jury rejected his and his girlfriend's claims it wasn't there on the fateful night or pulled on Howes before the 16-year-old was stabbed.
It was also shown texts between Michael and Mr Rowe where they appeared to celebrate acts of violence.
"Just sliced someone with a samurai sword bro," the teen wrote about a week before his death.
Members of Michael's family burst into tears as the not guilty verdict was read out, as another uttered "you're kidding".
Outside court his mother, Anja Brack, maintained her son was an innocent victim who loved his family.
"For the record, he was definitely not the character negatively portrayed during the trial," she said.
"Believe me, this was my child."
Police found Howes in the roof of his grandparents' home, where he had been living, less than two days after the stabbing.
Although he was cleared of the charges, he remains in custody on other matters.