The Watson Lake man who murdered 36-year-old Andy Giraudel in 2016 and dismembered his body has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Travis Dennis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this year for stabbing Giraudel to death in July 2016 during an argument following a night of drinking at Dennis’s Watson Lake home.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence, with a period of parole ineligibility ranging from 10 to 25 years. In a joint submission at Dennis’s sentencing hearing earlier this month, the Crown and defence requested that Dennis receive the minimum of 10 years without a chance of parole.
In his decision the afternoon of Aug. 29, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale said he found the joint submission valid. However, he noted the “horrific manner” in which Dennis committed the murder, adding that, had there not been a joint submission and he had to determine parole ineligibility, the result may have been different.
Giraudel’s mother, step-father and sister watched the sentencing via video conference from Watson Lake.
The most serious aggravating factor in the case, Veale said, was the fact that Dennis dismembered Giraudel’s body following the murder and deprived Giraudel’s family of a proper burial, followed by the fact that Dennis stabbed and cut Giraudel up to 25 times.
Veale also acknowledged the victim impact statements Giraudel’s family gave to the court during Dennis’s sentencing hearing, noting the pain, grief and anger they felt, and continue to feel, over Giraudel’s death.
However, there were also several mitigating factors in the case, Veale said, including Dennis’s young age at the time of the crime (he was 23), the fact that he turned himself into police, that the murder was an “isolated” event, and that Dennis, a Kaska man who’s a member of Dease River First Nation, suffers from the intergenerational effects of residential schools.
It was also mitigating that Dennis pleaded guilty to the murder charge, even though it was eight days into his preliminary hearing, because there were issues over whether Dennis’s confession to police would be admissible in court, Veale said. Dennis’s confession was crucial to the case, Veale said, and without it, it would be difficult for authorities to establish what happened as there were no known witnesses to the murder.
At several points while giving his decision, Veale noted that Dennis has long suffered from a number of untreated mental health issues, including anger management problems, coping with the departure and death of his mother when he was a child and substance abuse issues. Before formally handing down Dennis’s sentence, Veale said that he would strongly recommend that Dennis be referred to an Aboriginal intervention centre as soon as possible.
Along with life imprisonment, Dennis is also subject to a DNA order and a 10-year-long firearms ban, and must also pay a $200 victim fine surcharge and forfeit items to be returned to Giraudel’s family.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org