Thirty-six-year-old Andy Giraudel was a loving son, brother and friend, a good cook who dreamed of one day opening his own restaurant. He struggled with alcohol at times but had a good heart, and, in the summer of 2016, had talked about leaving Watson Lake to start anew.
But Giraudel would never get that chance.
Instead, he met a grisly end at the hands of fellow Watson Lake resident Travis Dennis in July 2016, a fact, his family members told a Whitehorse courtroom during Dennis’s sentencing hearing Aug. 10, that is almost unbearable.
Dennis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder May 30 for killing Giraudel in 2016 and dismembering his body following an argument that was preceded by a night of drinking. Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale accepted Dennis’s plea.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence and a minimum of 10 years of parole ineligibility.
The Crown and defence entered a joint submission before Veale Aug. 10 asking that Dennis be ineligible for parole for 10 years and that he be subject to a DNA order along with a 10-year-long firearm prohibition. They also requested that Dennis be ordered to pay a $200 victim fine surcharge and to forfeit some “personal items” that would be returned to Giraudel’s family.
Giraudel’s mother, stepfather and sister attended in the proceedings via video conference from Watson Lake. They each prepared victim impact statements, with a Victim Services’ worker reading the ones by Jeanicia and Andy Moskaluk and sister Andrea Moskaluk reading her own.
Moskaluk told the court that she would never forget the “gut-wrenching feeling” she felt when the funeral director told her family that they wouldn’t be able to see Giraudel’s body one last time because of the condition it was in.
She added that Dennis was continuing to do damage by “dragging my brother’s name through the mud” by alleging that Giraudel had sexually abused him, and that anyone who knew her brother would know those claims “couldn’t possibly be true.”
Nothing could justify what Dennis did to her brother, Moskaluk said, and no sentence will ever be enough.
“I would say, I hope (Dennis) is haunted by the sounds of my brother’s last screams, but my brother’s soul needs to be at rest,” she said. “Instead, I hope his own reflection is enough to torment his very existence until the good Lord rids us of this poor excuse of a human being.”
In his address to the court, Crown attorney Eric Marcoux said the joint submission was the result of “lengthy discussions” between the Crown, defence, RCMP, chief federal prosecutor and family members. The serious aggravating factor in the case — the fact that Dennis dismembered Giraudel’s body — on its own could justify a higher ineligibility period, Marcoux said, but that was “somewhat balanced” out by the case’s mitigating factors.
Those included Dennis’s age at the time of the murder (he was 23), the fact that Dennis had no prior criminal record and several Gladue factors highlighted in Dennis’s Gladue and pre-sentencing reports.
Marcoux also noted that, had the case gone to trial, several “potential issues” would have arisen over the admissibility of Dennis’s confession to police into evidence, which was something the Crown took into consideration.
Asked by Veale about Dennis’s statement to police that Giraudel had previously sexually assaulted him, Marcoux said that those were unproven allegations as far as the Crown was concerned.
Defence lawyer David McWhinnie, who is representing Dennis along with Norah Mooney, said that while Dennis was prepared to take the stand about the sexual assault allegations, they were being presented to the court as assertions that can’t be tried.
“He provides it as an explanation but not as an excuse,” McWhinnie said.
In his submissions, McWhinnie said that Dennis has consistently worked on improving himself in the two years he’s been at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC), taking every course available to him, participating in alcohol and drug addiction programming, consistently maintaining employment and otherwise showing initiative to better himself and address his underlying psychological issues.
“He is, in essence, doing what we hope or expect of a person who finds themselves in a situation where something of this nature has happened,” McWhinnie told the court, adding that Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions and never blamed Giraudel for what happened.
Dennis was given the chance to speak as the proceedings drew to a close.
“I’ve written so many speeches to express how sorry I am, but I could never write a perfect speech,” Dennis said.
“I know (Giraudel’s) family will never forgive me. I need the family to know that I am truly sorry. I know that I will never bring back Andy. There’s no words that I can say beyond that I am sorry.… I am truly, truly sorry.”
Veale reserved his decision. He’s expected to deliver it Aug. 29.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org