Darryl Sheepway is not just a killer, but a murderer.
Almost two months after Sheepway’s first-degree murder trial over the 2015 shooting of Christopher Brisson ended, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower returned to a Whitehorse courtroom Jan. 30 with his verdict.
Sheepway was not guilty of first-degree murder as charged, but guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
In his nearly two-hour-long address to the court, Gower said that while Brisson’s death was not the accident that Sheepway’s defence team had painted it out to be, the Crown had also failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Sheepway had planned the murder.
A large number of facts in the case were not in dispute, Gower noted.
On Aug. 28, 2015, Sheepway was addicted to crack cocaine. That morning, his wife had discovered suspicious transactions on her credit card, and, suspecting Sheepway was stealing money from her, took away his cell phone and bank cards before she drove into Whitehorse. Desperate for drugs, Sheepway contacted Brisson, who he’d been buying crack from for about a month, and asked the drug dealer to “front” him some cocaine. Brisson did, but it was not enough to satisfy Sheepway’s cravings.
Sheepway contacted Brisson again a few hours later, luring him out to McLean Lake Road under the guise of buying more drugs when, really, Sheepway intended to rob him. Sheepway brought a shotgun with him and pointed it at Brisson when he pulled up in his truck. Brisson grabbed the shotgun and a struggle ensued, during which at least one shot was fired.
Gower said that based on ballistics evidence, he was satisfied that Brisson then pulled his truck forward, at which point Sheepway fired two shots into the back of the truck’s cab. One of the shots entered the driver’s headrest, Gower said, and he was satisfied, based on the evidence, that that was the shot that killed Brisson.
While the defence’s case hinged on the argument that Sheepway was experiencing an “abnormal” state or mindset the day of the murder, Gower said the evidence instead showed Sheepway acting with clear, linear thinking before, during and after the shooting.
He did not consume enough crack to be significantly intoxicated before killing Brisson, Gower said, and noted that Sheepway himself at one point told police he had “purposely” leaned out of his own truck to shoot at Brisson’s.
Sheepway’s self-professed skill with a shotgun further showed he would have understood firing the weapon at close range at Brisson’s truck would cause death or serious bodily harm, Gower said. He dismissed the the defence’s theory that a tree branch could have made the second puncture hole in the truck’s windshield, agreeing with the Crown that the theory was “fanciful.”
What the evidence did not prove, Gower said, was that Sheepway had planned or deliberated to kill Brisson, something that’s needed to find someone guilty of first-degree murder.
Brisson’s father, Rock Brisson, told reporters afterwards that he was “happy” with the verdict.
“Well, it’s not the first-degree murder, but second-degree, I’m okay with that,” he said. “And at least it’s going to an end and at least we, everybody, my daughters and me, we can move on with our lives.”
He added that while it was “tough” to sit through the trial, at least now he knows what happened to his son.
“The biggest thing I know — my son didn’t suffer,” Rock Brisson said. “That’s the main thing. It’s hard to sit in the court but at the end of the day, I know what happened.”
The court will reconvene Feb. 6 to set a sentencing date for Sheepway.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org