A Yukon Supreme Court judge has sentenced Darryl Sheepway, found guilty of second-degree murder earlier this year for killing 25-year-old Christopher Brisson in 2015, to life in prison with no chance of parole for 13 years.
Justice Leigh Gower handed down the sentence in a packed Whitehorse courtroom the afternoon of May 8.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence. In doubt was how long Sheepway’s period of parole ineligibility would be.
At a sentencing hearing last month, Sheepway’s defence lawyers argued it should be no longer than the minimum of 10 years, while the Crown argued that it should be 15 years.
Reading from written reasonings, Gower said that the nature and circumstances for the crime were serious enough to warrant a period of parole ineligibility that was longer than the legal minimum. Aggravating factors in the case, Gower said, included the fact that Sheepway had planned to rob Brisson, that he used a loaded shotgun during the robbery and that he shot at Brisson as Brisson was attempting to retreat.
Sheepway also stole drugs and cash from Brisson’s body following the murder, Gower said, and then attempted to cover up the crime by returning to the scene to clean up shotgun shells and retrieve Brisson’s body, later dumping it off a steep hill at Miles Canyon.
However, Gower also noted several mitigating factors in the case that, when taken into account, meant Sheepway didn’t deserve 15 years of parole ineligibility either. Letters of support and evidence called at trial showed that the actions Sheepway undertook while addicted to crack cocaine were out of character, Gower said. He was also cooperative with the police and the court process, leading investigators on a “reenactment” that was crucial in establishing what happened and also agreeing to most facts at trial. Sheepway also has a “large, supportive family,” Gower said, and also apologized to Brisson’s family at his sentencing hearing, although Gower added it was “troubling” that Sheepway still insists that Brisson’s death was an accident.
Gower said he considered Sheepway’s addiction to crack cocaine, and the statements Sheepway made about his addiction to police and during the trial, as a “neutral factor” in sentencing. He rejected the defence’s argument that the conditions of Sheepway’s pre-sentence custody at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre should be factored into determining parole eligibility.
Gower also sentenced Sheepway to five years in jail for nine robberies he committed in Ontario following Brisson’s murder.
Sheepway will also receive a 10-year ban on firearms and explosives, a lifetime ban on restricted and prohibited firearms and ammunition, will be subject to a DNA order and have to pay $2,000 in victim fine surcharges. He must also forfeit the shotgun used in the murder.
Several members of Brisson’s family were in court for Sheepway’s sentencing, as was an RCMP officer who testified during the trial and Sheepway’s ex-wife, who was also a Crown witness at the trial.
Brisson’s father, Rock, told media afterwards that while he had hoped Sheepway would receive 15 years of parole ineligibility, he’s glad that the case is over.
“I didn’t think it was enough, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to get out in 13 years…. It’s not what I wanted but it feels good,” he said, adding that Brisson’s murder and the long wait for answers has been “hard on everybody.”
But in the end, Rock said, he thinks his son got justice.
“At least they caught somebody,” he said. “In some cases, they never (catch) anybody.… At least they caught (Sheepway). He got away for awhile (but) I know what happened. That’s good enough for me.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org