Judge Peter Chisholm ruled in favour of a youth sentence on Thursday in Yukon territorial court.
From the outset he told the court that no sentence could reflect the loss of 17-year-old Brandy Vittrekwa.
“There is nothing this court can do to repair the damage done,” Chisholm said.
“My hope is that (the sentence) offers some comfort.”
The sentence instead should be aimed at denouncing the crime, protecting the public and looking at ways to rehabilitate the man, the judge said.
The young man pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December 2015.
He can’t be identified because of his age.
Vittrekwa was found dead on a trail in the McIntyre subdivision on Dec. 8, 2014.
The night before, the young man, Vittrekwa and a third friend were drinking together.
He was romantically interested in her, prosecutors have said, and tried to kiss her twice.
She rejected his advances. They left together, both very intoxicated.
At some point the young man beat her up.
The next day she was found dead, lying on her back with a broken jaw and two black eyes.
Her body was swollen and bloodied. Exposure, asphyxiation and intoxication are considered the causes of her death.
He admitted that when he left her, he knew she could die.
The temperature that night dipped below -3 degrees Celsius.
Three years is the maximum allowed for youth sentences in cases of manslaughter.
Chisholm listed factors that he took into account for the sentence.
The young man grew up in a dysfunctional family, his parents both struggling with addiction issues. His family is still suffering from the inter-generational trauma of residential school.
He’s had numerous run-ins with the justice system, with multiple convictions for violent offences.
He has a history of exhibiting anger and aggression.
Left untreated, his risks of re-offending are high.
His moral culpability is high: he is the one who brought alcohol over, and he knew Vittrekwa’s life was in danger when he left her on the trail.
Following the advice of three experts who interviewed the young man and testified in court, Chisholm gave no credit for time spent in jail before sentencing.
That allows for the full three years to be used for the young man to follow the Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision (IRCS) program.
IRCS is a federally funded program for young offenders dealing with mental health issues.
It offers individualized treatment catering to the young man’s needs, the judge noted.
The young man could be transferred to Burnaby, B.C. or Regina, Sask. to attend the program.
“It’s the best way to address his risk factors and protect the public,” Chisholm said.
Chisholm also imposed a seven-year firearm ban on the teen.
Vittrekwa’s grandmother and great-aunt both filed victim impact statements to the court to describe the pain and grief they’ve been enduring.
Vittrekwa’s parents weren’t able to express their loss on paper, the judge noted, as they were struggling with the loss of their child.
“Their lives will never be the same,” he said.
Crown prosecutor David McWhinnie had filed an application for the young man to receive an adult sentence.
He didn’t explicitly ask for one. During the sentencing hearing on June 7 he compared the possible sentences available.
Chisholm noted that had he gone with an adult sentence of five years – within the four- to six-year range the Crown had suggested – the overall sentence would have ended up being close to the youth sentence in terms of actual time served in jail.
Unlike for youth sentences, judges have to give credit for pre-trial custody for adult sentences.
That means the young man could have received up to 18 months’ credit, which would have left three years and a half to serve.
With the possibility of parole after one third of the sentence and statutory release after two thirds, the actual time in prison would have been comparable.
Defence lawyer David Tarnow had urged the judge to go for a youth sentence, noting that sending him to an adult facility would expose him to older, high-risk individuals.
After Chisholm rendered the sentence, members of the family and supporters held a large portrait for Vittrekwa in front of people exiting the court room.
Family members from Old Crow flew to Whitehorse on Wednesday.
They were part of a group of 15 people, including friends and supporters, who demonstrated in front of the courthouse on Second Avenue that day with signs reading “Justice for Brandy” and “Adult crime deserves adult time.”
Vittrekwa’s grandmother, Marie-Jane Moses, told the News at the time she was happy to see support for the teenager.
She said she was hoping for an adult sentence.
“(This) horrendous crime deserves more than three years,” she said.
“I lost a beautiful granddaughter,” she said, tearing up.
“I miss her every day.”
The young man is scheduled to be back before the courts in six months for a review.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at