The Pelly Crossing woman who committed a 2018 manslaughter in Whitehorse was sentenced to time served with conditions on Aug. 27.
Lynzee Harriott Silverfox, now 23-years-old, has been in custody at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre since she was arrested for the killing of 25-year-old Chelsey Tegan Bien. She had been facing a second-degree murder charge but pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May of this year.
An agreed statement of facts unsealed after the judge delivered his sentence details the Feb. 26, 2018 killing and the relationship between Silverfox and Bien. It states that the two young women had known each other for years and were close friends.
Silverfox and Bien had been drinking with another woman and a man at Bien’s apartment on the evening of Feb. 25. The statement of facts says that Silverfox had been drinking heavily in the days leading up to that night and that morning.
In the statement of facts, Silverfox recalled that throughout the day and into the night she drank a 40-ounce bottle of rye whiskey, part of a 26-ounce bottle of vodka and numerous cans of beer and vodka coolers. It says she also used cocaine and crack cocaine.
Between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m. Silverfox stood up to leave and tried to take a six-pack of beer with her. Silverfox and Bien argued about the beer as Silverfox tried to leave. Neighbours overheard the argument, which concluded with a woman who they thought was Silverfox saying “I didn’t mean to do that” and “I’m sorry.”
The man who had been partying with Bien and Silverfox saw Bien lying on the floor in the front entrance of the apartment with blood on her shirt moments later and no sign of Silverfox. Bien was pronounced dead at Whitehorse General Hospital and a later autopsy concluded she had succumbed to wounds to her heart and lung.
The statement of claim says Silverfox has very little memory of the events due to extreme intoxication.
The intoxication as well as Silverfox’s remorse for her actions and personal progress she has made since her arrest featured majorly in defence attorney Jennifer Budgell’s submission at the Aug. 27 sentencing hearing.
Crown counsel Leo Lane asked presiding judge John Vertes to consider what was taken away permanently when hearing about Silverfox’s efforts at rehabilitation and plans for the future.
“When your honour hears about Ms. Silverfox’s plans for the future and her efforts to make a better life for herself and pursue healing both for herself and her family, I ask the court to keep in mind that these are all opportunities and choices that she took away from Chelsey Bien when she grabbed the knife and ended her life,” Lane said.
Lane spoke of the harm Bien’s death had caused her family. A representative of the Council of Yukon First Nations also read a community impact statement. It detailed the harm done to the young woman’s peer group and the community-wide suffering and suspicion that followed her death. He noted that Bien’s family, some of them present in the courtroom, chose not to submit victim impact statements.
Lane asked Judge Vertes, who presided by videoconference, to impose a six-year sentence followed by three years of probation while Budgell argued that a three-year sentence would be appropriate.
Budgell spoke about Silverfox’s traumatic past which included alcoholic parents early in her life followed by time in foster care. The court heard that her mother eventually got sober and began taking care of Silverfox again. After some time away from Pelly Crossing the family returned, a move which Budgell said Silverfox’s mother regretted.
Gladue reports provide the court with information on the life circumstances of Indigenous offenders and must be considered in sentencing.
Back in Pelly Crossing and entering adolescence, the court heard that Silverfox began drinking and using drugs. Budgell also said her client had been the victim of multiple sexual assaults in her teens and little in the way of support was offered in the community. She said Silverfox entered a downward spiral of heavy drug use in the months leading up to killing Bien as a way to ease the pain of the sexual assaults.
Budgell told the court that Silverfox had spent her time behind bars well. She detailed how her client had acted as a representative for the other women in her unit and participated in a variety of courses and programs.
Silverfox took the stand to express remorse for her actions and acknowledged the damage done to both Bien’s family and her own.
“I have made a vow to myself to never be the same person I was four years ago,” she said.
The judge’s verdict followed.
As Vertes reached the point in his sentence when he announced Silverfox would serve only one more day in jail for killing Bien with her time served taken into account, several people on one side of the courtroom stood up and muttered curses as they left.
The judge approved a three-year probation order with conditions that included a weapons prohibition and a no-contact order with Bien’s family.
Once the complete sentence had been read, Silverfox reached across the partition to hug people in the front row of the gallery before she was led away.
Although the sentence effectively imposed just one more day in jail, Silverfox will remain behind bars as she awaits a murder trial along with her sister Charabelle for the 2017 killing of Derek Edwards in Pelly Crossing.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org