A Quesnel-area man will know today whether he will be serving time in federal prison for the unintentional shooting death of his son.
Following a trial, Roger Wayne Evans, 65, was found guilty in May last year of manslaughter using a firearm for the incident that cost the life of Dale Evans, 41, sometime over the night of July 31-Aug. 1, 2018.
During a sentencing hearing Monday, a Crown prosecutor argued Evans should be sentenced to four years in prison.
Defence counsel, in turn, contended a conditional sentence order - effectively house arrest - lasting two years less a day followed by three years probation is the appropriate term.
Near the conclusion of the hearing, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen told Evans he will issue a decision this morning "and the critical dividing line there is two years."
Sentences of two years or more are served in a federal institution. Conversely, sentences of two years less a day are considered provincial terms and open the possibility for a conditional sentence order plus probation.
"If I decide a sentence of two years or more is a fit sentence for year, then I will impose that sentence tomorrow. That will be a term of imprisonment," said Tammen.
"If I determine that a fit sentence is two years less a day, then I will not be imposing sentence tomorrow. You'll be coming back at another date for consideration of whether that sentence can and more importantly, should be served in the community pursuant to a conditional sentence order."
Based on evidence and testimony presented the trial, the father and son were in the process of moving out of their home in the 6200 block of Nazko Highway, about 50 kilometres west of Quesnel but had also been drinking.
In the home was a rifle - a Savage 99C Series A .308 Winchester with lever action - that Roger Evans normally kept standing in the corner of his bedroom but, for reasons not explained, it was lying on the kitchen table amid several empty and full beer cans.
Roger Evans had picked up a rifle with the intent of carrying out to a trailer for safe keeping when it went off. His son, who had been walking in front of his father as they were leaving the home, was struck in the back with a .308-calibre bullet.
Dale Evans fell immediately and, when checked by his father, showed no signs of life. Lacking a landline and out of cellphone range, Roger Evans could not call for help from the home and, according to his statement to police, felt he was too drunk to drive.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2018, a friend who had dropped by to help with their move found Evans' body lying in a pool of blood. When he yelled for Roger Evans, there was no response, and, reluctant to go further into the house, drove to a spot within cell range and called 911.
RCMP arrived later that morning and found Roger Evans on a couch in the living room where it appeared he had just woken up. He later told police he "passed out, I guess."
Should Tammen opt for provincial time, the outcome for another man, Kayne Sabbe Penner, will play into the decision. He faces sentencing for the Dec. 20, 2012 shooting death in Vanderhoof of April Johnson, 21, also unintentional,
In January, a judge found the so-called "mandatory minimum" of four years Penner had been facing was "grossly disproportionate” and that 18 months to two years less a day would be more appropriate. A final decision on sentencing for Penner is scheduled to be issued in July.
There are differences in the cases. In contrast to Penner, Evans had been drinking, owned the gun in question and despite lacking a firearms licence, and has a criminal record for a prior offence.
Evans' relationship with alcohol was a theme throughout the hearing on Monday.
Crown prosecutor Tyler Bauman noted that in 2007 Evans had been convicted of aggravated assault for an incident in Alberta and sentenced to 15 months in jail. Evans committed the act while "black out drunk from alcohol," Bauman said and drew comparisons to the events that led up to the death of Evans' son, notably that he had consumed four or five beers prior to picking up the rifle.
As such, Evans amounts to a "poor candidate for a rehabilitative sentence in the community."
"The Crown takes the position that Mr. Evans is an untreated alcoholic who denies his addiction, who does not believe he needs treatment, fails to see how his negligence with respect to his rifle with respect to the death of his son," Bauman said.
Conversely, Evans' lawyer, Jason LeBlond argued that his client's risk could be managed by imposing an order that he abstain from consuming alcohol during the length of the probation. (An abstention is automatically imposed for the duration of a conditional sentence order).
Evans is also willing to seek professional help as long as it does not interfere with his source of employment, LeBlond also said and noted that other than on the date of his son's birthday and on the date of his death, Evans' has not consumed a drink since he was found guilty.
In response, Bauman said Evans also abstained in the days leading up to sentencing for the incident in Alberta,"and yet, here we are."
Given a chance to speak, Evans said he misses his son every day and hasn't had a decent night's sleep since the day of his death.
"I think about him when I get up, when I go to bed," Evans said. "He was my only son, my only child. I just miss him so much."
Evans said he accepts responsibility for picking up the rifle before checking to make sure it was not loaded.
"I should've checked it myself," Evans said. "He was always target shooting with it and he never left anything in the pipe (a bullet in the chamber). He never had until that day and I'll never figure out why he did that.
"I miss him every day."