Mario Rueben Skookum, the second of two men involved in the 2017 killing of Wilfred “Dickie” Charlie in his Carmacks home was handed down a three-and-a-half-year sentence followed by two years of probation on Sept. 8. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Second man in 2017 Carmacks killing to serve additional five months in jail

Mario Rueben Skookum was sentenced to 3.5 years for his role in killing Wilfred “Dickie” Charlie

The second of two men involved in the 2017 killing of Wilfred “Dickie” Charlie in his Carmacks home was handed down a three-and-a-half-year sentence followed by two years of probation in a Whitehorse courtroom Sept. 8.

However, with credit for the time he’s already spent in jail, as well as a further reduction due to the Crown’s failure to disclose evidence to the defence, Mario Rueben Skookum will only remain behind bars for five more months.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Edith Campbell gave her sentencing reasons about a month and a half after hearing arguments from the Crown and defence, who had asked, respectively, for five years or time served with the record showing a one-year sentence.

Campbell, a week prior, had sentenced Mario’s cousin and former co-accused, Tyler Aaron Skookum, to nine years in jail for his role in Charlie’s death. (With credit for time served, Tyler will spend five more years in jail.)

Both had been charged with first-degree murder before pleading guilty to manslaughter.

The agreed statement of facts filed in both cases said that Tyler and Mario, along with another cousin, had been drinking and in the early morning of June 19, 2017, went to Charlie’s house in search of more alcohol. Charlie, 57, refused to give them any, and Tyler and Mario, after their cousin left, decided to take any he had by force.

Mario, now 28, kneeled on Charlie’s back to hold him down as Tyler searched the house. Tyler then emerged from the kitchen with a knife and began stabbing Charlie; Mario immediately got off of him, assuming at first that Tyler was just punching him.

Charlie ran out of his house but collapsed. Tyler and Mario, the latter after his cousin threatened him, moved Charlie to the nearby Yukon River. Mario stopped helping and Tyler pushed Charlie into the river, not knowing if he was still alive; an autopsy showed that Charlie likely died from the stab wounds but wasn’t conclusive.

Mario had never intended to cause Charlie harm, according to the agreed statement of facts.

Summarizing victim and community impact statements read to the court in July, Campbell said Charlie’s death had created a deep divide in Carmacks, where community members still felt fear, distrust, anger and hurt three years later.

Charlie’s family had lost a man who knew traditional ways, like how to run a dog team, and someone with a good sense of humour who would hunt, fish and gather medicine to help feed and nourish his loved ones.

The court, she acknowledged, couldn’t bring him back, and Mario’s sentence shouldn’t be seen as a reflection of the worth of Charlie’s life.

Campbell outlined the aggravating and mitigating factors in considering his sentence.

A citizen of Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, Mario is an intergenerational survivor of residential schools, she noted, and had suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse beginning at an early age. He also witnessed alcohol abuse as a child and began drinking at 15 after a friend’s death.

That Mario pleaded guilty to manslaughter, has accepted responsibility and shown remorse for his actions and taken part in multiple programs while in jail were also mitigating.

However, Campbell found Mario’s criminal record, the fact that Charlie was in his own home where he should have been safe, that Mario didn’t help Charlie and assisted in moving him towards the river were aggravating factors. The long-lasting and deep impact on the community was also aggravating.

In addition to the manslaughter sentence, she also gave him 30 days, to be served concurrently, for a bail breach he earned in 2019.

Accounting for time spent in custody, Mario would have 10 months left to serve, but that amount was reduced due to the Crown failing to share two police statements with the defence that could have affected a potential trial witness’s credibility.

By the time the statements were disclosed, following an application by Tyler’s lawyer, Mario had already entered his guilty plea, placing him in a “difficult” position, Campbell said.

The Crown conceded the failure was a breach of Mario’s right to mount a full defence. However, Crown attorney Tom Lemon had argued it was “minor” and worthy of only a month or two of credit, while Skookum’s lawyer, Bibhas Vaze, described it as far more serious.

Campbell gave Mario five months, disagreeing that the breach was “minor” but noting there was no evidence the statements were withheld maliciously.

Still, she said, the case should serve as a reminder to the Crown about the importance of thoroughly reviewing evidence and sharing it with the defence, a duty well-enshrined in law and crucial to maintaining a trustworthy justice system.

Mario will be on probation for two years after being released from jail and subject to a number of conditions, including a curfew, a prohibition on possessing or consuming alcohol and drugs, not having contact with more than a half-dozen people and notifying the RCMP before visiting Carmacks and upon leaving.

Campbell addressed Mario before the court closed.

“You’re still young, you’re under 30,” she said. “It seems to me you genuinely want to deal with the issues that brought you before the court.”

She acknowledged the steps he’d already taken and encouraged him to continue bettering himself.

“You owe that to yourself and you owe that to your community as well,” she said, adding that addressing his substance use problems and trauma was the only way to start making amends.

In an email, Crown attorney Lauren Whyte wrote that it had been “a complicated case with a number of legal issues that the Court had to consider.”

“We hope that those impacted by this offence can begin to move forward now that Mario and Tyler Skookum have been sentenced,” she wrote.

Vaze, meanwhile, said in an interview that “there’s an element of the sentence that provides hope to Mario Skookum.”

While he declined to speak about the specifics of his client’s sentence, he said that generally, it’s extremely important for the criminal justice system to provide that hope, and to let Indigenous people know “that their voices are actually being heard, about the importance of their ability to do good things in the community, to move forward, to be able to make a life for themselves.”

“Any time the court gives a young Indigenous person some hope, that is an important message.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Yukon courts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read