A Whitehorse woman has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson.
Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, entered her plea at Yukon Supreme Court on Jan. 27.
Thorn was arrested in October 2019 and originally charged with second degree murder. Crown prosecutor Noel Sinclair withdrew the second degree charge on Jan. 27 as a result of plea negotiations.
Dawson, 45, was found dead in the Riverdale home he shared with Thorn on April 6, 2017. He was a citizen of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
According to the admissions of fact, Thorn and Dawson were living together in a domestic relationship at the time of Dawson’s death.
Sinclair read the agreed details of the incident before the court following Thorn’s guilty plea.
He said that on the night of April 6, Thorn called 9-1-1 to report she had found Dawson deceased on the kitchen floor of their apartment. She told the dispatcher she had been home for about 30 minutes, had drank some cider, and hadn’t moved or cleaned anything in the apartment.
Police arrived at the apartment and found Dawson deceased, with face and hands “extensively covered” in dried blood. They observed that Dawson appeared to have been moved.
A forensic autopsy identified numerous internal and external blunt force trauma injuries to Dawson’s head and torso. His blood alcohol content was “more than three times the legal blood alcohol limit for driving a motor vehicle.” His blood additionally contained evidence of cannabis.
Forensic examination of the apartment revealed blood stains in the living room, bedroom and kitchen. There was evidence, based on blood wiped from counters and discovered on cleaning products, that a partial clean-up had occurred.
A recycling bin in the apartment contained an empty 750 millilitre glass vodka bottle with blood traces on the spout, body and base. There were also four empty two-litre cider bottles.
The forensic investigation concluded that Dawson and Thorn were the only people in the apartment around the time of Dawson’s death.
Thorn initially provided statements to RCMP indicating she had spent the day of April 6 searching for Dawson, who had unexpectedly left their apartment the night before while she slept. She said she was concerned about Dawson’s medical safety, because he was prone to seizures, and eventually returned home to find him dead.
Thorn’s alibi was contradicted by a witness who lived above Dawson and Thorn. The witness said they overheard an argument between the couple, a loud banging sound and Thorn sobbing during the day on April 6.
“Ms. Thorn admits that she is responsible for the various blunt force trauma injuries which unlawfully caused Mr. Dawson’s death,” the admission of fact says.
“Ms. Thorn admits that at the time she assaulted Mr. Dawson, she was intoxicated from her consumption of vodka and cider … (and) admits she lost her self-control and assaulted Mr. Dawson using excessive force.”
The admission of fact also describes Thorn as acting “in the heat of passion” on April 6.
Thorn was arrested on Oct. 16, 2019, and remained in custody for 339 days before being released with conditions on Sept. 18, 2020. She was re-arrested on Sept. 20 after allegedly breaching those conditions. She remains in custody.
Supreme Court Justice Edith Campbell advised the court she accepted the guilty plea and charge of manslaughter.
“As I understand it, (Thorn) was too intoxicated to form the intention of murder,” Campbell said, adding that “a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have realized that … what has been done was dangerous and would cause non-trivial harm to the person.”
Crown and defense counsels requested a pre-sentence report and a Gladue Report, which shares information about an Indigenous person’s background and experiences of trauma to aid in sentencing. A number of victim impact statements from Dawson’s family are also expected.
Thorn’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 19 and 20 to make time to compile those reports.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org