Vittrekwa’s killer should get youth sentence: experts

Yukon Territorial Court is faced with two options: give the 16-year-old boy who beat up and left a teenager to die back in 2014 an adult sentence or send him to an intensive rehabilitation program for youth.

Yukon Territorial Court is faced with two options: give the 16-year-old boy who beat up and left a teenager to die back in 2014 an adult sentence or send him to an intensive rehabilitation program for youth.

The question is whether a youth sentence will hold the young man accountable for his actions, Crown prosecutor David McWhinnie told Judge Peter Chisholm on Tuesday.

Defence lawyer David Tarnow asked the judge to keep his client in the youth justice system.

The young man, who can’t be named because of his age, pleaded guilty back on Dec. 17, 2015 to manslaughter.

He admitted to beating up 17-year-old Brandy Vittrekwa and leaving her on a trail in the McIntyre subdivision on a cold December night in 2014.

Vittrekwa was later 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.

The young man was partying with Vittrekwa that night. He had a “romantic interest” in her, prosecutors said. He tried to kiss her but she rebuffed him.

On Tuesday the court heard from three experts who interviewed the young man and his family and prepared reports for sentencing.

They all recommended the man receive a three-year youth sentence – the maximum available for a young offender for this crime – and be sent to a facility offering the Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision program.

The federally funded program delivers specialized programs for youth with mental health needs who have been convicted of a serious violent offence.

Half of the sentence would be served in custody with the other half allowing for a slow re-integration in the community.

Ever since he was a child the young man has had trouble controlling his temper and his anger, forensic psychologist Anne Pleydon told the court.

He has already been convicted of violent offences and was charged last February for assaulting a staff member at the young offender facility in Whitehorse.

Pleydon testified the young man was already taking advantage of all the services he could at the young offender facility in Whitehorse.

Sending him to an adult facility would have little chance of rehabilitating him, given what research has shown, she said.

It would also expose him to older, high-risk individuals, she added.

There are two facilities that offer the IRCS program the young man could go to: one in Burnaby, B.C. and one in Regina, Sask. But that would require the man’s family to move to either province.

Pleydon noted the young man was highly motivated to change.

“Hope is not lost,” she told the court, but the young man needs to deal with issues he has.

Were the young man to be released immediately, it’s extremely likely he would commit a violent act, she said.

The young man did significantly better when he was in a structured environment at the young offender facility, Pleydon said.

The court heard about the young man’s chaotic upbringing.

His mother left home when he was only 18 months old because of substance abuse.

He had to spend a year in foster care because his father and grandmother were unable to care for him.

The young man witnessed his father being struck by an aneurysm during a hunting trip, dying a short time after.

If the young man is sentenced as an adult, he will likely receive a sentence of around four years.

The court also heard from Stuart Cadwallader, who detailed how residential school prevented many First Nation men and women from learning how to be good parents. That led to the trauma being passed from generation to generation.

In the young man’s case, it means severe addiction issues.

“In the absence of his mother (the young man) was not provided for, there was no stability, respect, boundaries to develop in a healthy way,” Cadwallader said.

McWhinnie cited a case involving a 19-year-old man who beat up and left a young First Nation woman to die. He received 50 months in prison.

The young man involved here was only 15 at the time he killed Vittrekwa, which diminished his moral culpability, the prosecutor said.

He doesn’t get “pleasure” from violence but is completely desensitized to it, McWhinnie said.

After beating up Vittrekwa, the young man wondered whether she would die.

He walked away from the scene, went home, and fell asleep.

In doing so he exhibited a cruel disregard for other people, McWhinnie said.

The prosecutor told the court that rehabilitation doesn’t override other considerations such as denunciation, deterrence and the safety of the public when sentencing the young man.

With an adult sentence, the young man would get credit for his time spent behind bars while awaiting sentencing.

Given that judges usually give a credit of 1.5 days for each day of pre-trial custody, the man would likely receive an 18-month credit.

For youth sentences, however, judges are not required to consider pre-trial custody.

All the experts recommended the man get no credit so he could spend three years in the IRCS program.

The young man himself addressed the court.

“I feel horrible for what I did to Brandy Vittrekwa,” he said.

“I’m trying very hard to change my life.”

A victim impact statement written by the girl’s grandmother was read to the court.

“It is difficult to see beyond my loss,” the statement reads.

“I’ll always remember my granddaughter with her vibrant spirit.”

Judge Chisholm will give his decision on June 16.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read