A second person has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Carmacks resident Wilfred “Dickie” Charlie.
Tyler Aaron Skookum, via his lawyer Jennifer Budgell, entered the plea in a Whitehorse courtroom the morning of April 6.
The plea came in the midst of Skookum’s stop-and-go trial for first-degree murder in relation to Charlie’s death.
Charlie, 57, was last seen alive in Carmacks on June 19, 2017. His body was discovered in the Yukon River near Fort Selkirk about two weeks later.
Skookum was arrested in September that year and was initially charged with second-degree murder before the charge was upgraded to first-degree.
The matter went to trial before a jury on Jan. 9 and was expected to last four weeks, but two lengthy adjournments to deal with outstanding legal issues pushed the proceedings well into April.
Skookum’s cousin, Mario Rueben Skookum, had also been charged with first-degree murder in Charlie’s death. He, too, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in December 2019 and had been expected to testify in Tyler’s trial.
Tyler appeared in court April 6 via video conference from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Crown attorney Lauren Whyte read an agreed statement of facts to the court outlining the details of the crime. However, she also applied for and was granted a publication ban on the facts until Tyler’s sentencing hearing over concerns that they might interfere with Mario’s ongoing court matters.
Members of Charlie’s family listened to the proceedings on the phone. Whyte told the court that they had wanted to be there in-person, but COVID-19 precautions limiting the number of people allowed in a courtroom didn’t allow for that to happen.
The jury was not present in the court. Justice Edith Campbell, with the agreement of both Crown and defence, took the unusual step of discharging the jury in its absence, noting the “exceptional circumstances” — the COVID-19 pandemic — the court was facing.
Eleven jurors had been hearing the trial. It would not have been safe or allowed for appropriate distancing measures to have them all in the jury room or courtroom, she said.
The court will reconvene next month to select a sentencing date for Tyler.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com