Mark Lange smiled.
For the first time since he began appearing in Yukon Supreme Court alongside Dean (Johns) Boucher for the 2004 murder of Carcross hotelier Robert Olson, a ghost of a grin cracked Lange’s normally stoic face on Thursday.
Both men were convicted by jury of second-degree murder in June, after details of the “brutal and severe” beating the 64-year-old Olson received were described by forensic experts.
He had been kicked at least 15 times in the body, neck and head. RCMP discovered the corpse a few days later in a roadside ditch in the Wolf Creek subdivision in Whitehorse, partially buried in snow.
Boucher and Lange both turned themselves in to Whitehorse RCMP a few days after the slaying on December 23, 2004.
At various times, both men testified to their own innocence of the murder, and blamed each other for Olson’s death.
Boucher previously admitted to lying to police, but said Olson had been a close family friend and insisted Lange was responsible for the murder.
It wasn’t until their pre-sentencing hearing on Thursday, when Boucher asked to take the stand once again, that Lange finally found a hope of vindication.
“I beat my uncle to death and I don’t even … I don’t even remember the fight even starting,” said Boucher, who represented himself, having dismissed his lawyer in June.
“I was definitely trying to get Mark Lange to take the fall for me,” he told Justice Leigh Gower.
“That’s me. I’ve lied all my life and I’ve gotten good at it.”
But this time, he swore he was telling the truth.
“Maybe I can still go to a good place when I’m gone, for being honest once in my life.”
Boucher described Olson’s last night alive, when Boucher and Lange visited the Caribou Hotel in a drunken stupor only to have Olson throw Lange out.
Boucher claimed that he and Olson then sat down and talked about Boucher’s life.
“He started giving me shit,” said Boucher.
“He told me I had a beautiful family and what the fuck was wrong with me, that I was nothing but a punk and a fucking loser.
“He was really giving me shit about being a loser.”
Boucher claimed he could not recall the violence or when Lange returned to the Caribou.
“I had drank a bottle of whiskey to myself, on top of beers all day.
“I don’t know what I did. I don’t know how bad I beat him.
“Mark had nothing to do with the fight at all.”
Boucher apologized for wasting the court’s time and money, and he started crying as he apologized to his family and to Lange, who would not return his gaze.
“I’m sorry, Mark.”
The apologies proved too much for a middle-aged First Nations woman sitting in the public gallery to withstand.
Boucher’s mother broke down in sobs and wails. Surrounding family and friends tried to comfort her, but she was inconsolable.
Gower ordered a five-minute recess.
“I’ve been doing that to her my whole life,” Boucher said, tearful and glum on the stand after Gower left the room.
“I hate myself.”
When court reconvened, Boucher explained how a second personality overtakes him whenever he is drunk.
“I’m two different people when I’m drunk. I don’t know what I’m capable of when I’m in blackouts.”
Lange is not guilty of anything “except hanging out with a piece of shit like me,” he said.
Previously, Crown prosecutors had pushed for 15-year prison sentences for both men.
“There is evidence that both accused were a part of what happened to Mr. Olson that night (in December),” Crown attorney Edith Campbell said Thursday.
“Your lordship does not have to decide who inflicted the fatal blow because they were acting together,” Campbell told Gower.
Even if Gower believes Lange was not complicit in the actual beating of Olson, that doesn’t change the fact that Lange drove past the Carcross nursing station as Olson lay dying in the back of the pickup, or that he conspired to dispose of the body and conceal his involvement, said Campbell.
Lange’s DNA was found under Olson’s fingernails, she noted.
Both men “drove to Wolf Creek subdivision and disposed of the body by putting it in a ditch, where they knew that likely some wild animals would be able to get to the body,” said Campbell.
But Boucher decried Lange’s innocence.
Lange did drive Olson’s truck out of Carcross with the dying man lying unconscious in the bed, but he was under duress and intimidated, said Boucher.
If the Carcross RCMP saw Boucher driving they would have pulled him over right away, he explained.
Boucher recalled telling Lange to drive fast, and later attempting CPR on Olson.
“The next thing I know I’m at Wolf Creek and Bob was in the ditch. I put him there. I remember putting him there.
“The only thing (Lange) is guilty of is driving a truck that I took.
“He’s been in lockdown 20 months … he doesn’t deserve to do another day.”
Boucher begged for Gower to sentence him immediately.
“Give me 15 (years), give me 25 (years), I don’t fuckin’ care,” he said.
“I don’t know if I’ll survive down south. I don’t care, to be honest.”
Gower promised the court would act as swiftly as possible.
“This is a big change of events, as you might imagine,” he told Boucher.
“We will do our best to get this done tomorrow.”
Gower then adjourned court until 9 a.m. Friday, when Lange’s lawyer, Andre Roothman, will argue for a lighter sentence.
And as the court cleared, a flicker of a relief played briefly across Lange’s lips as he returned to police custody.