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Manslaughter sentencing dismays victim's friend

 Donald James Beynon of Fort St. James to serve 19 more months followed by 2 1/2 years probation

A long-time friend of the victim says she’s “very upset and disappointed” with the sentence handed Friday to a Fort St. James man for the manslaughter death of a woman with whom he was in an intimate relationship.

Donald James Beynon, 42, will serve a further 19 months behind bars followed by 2 1/2 years probation for the February 2022 death of April Mary Monk, 40, in the community of about 4,500 people 160 kilometres north of Prince George.

In all, he was sentenced to five years in jail less credit of 3 years 5 months based on 1 1/2 days for each day in custody prior to sentencing.

So-called Gladue factors related to Indigenous people, their backgrounds and personal histories and their treatment by the justice system played significant roles in the outcome.

Diane Nakamura, who attended the hearing and provided a victim impact statement, said she generally supports the principles behind Gladue, named after a landmark 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision, but in Beynon’s case they were taken too far.

“I understand the role of the Gladue report due to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in our prison system and in our criminal justice system, but I cannot reconcile that with the loss of a life,” Nakamura said. “Her killer received in my opinion only a very minimal sentence for taking a life.”

Nakamura knew Monk since she was 17 years old. The now-retired social worker said she acted as a “second mom” to Monk whenever she was in a time of crisis.

“She was a very loving, funny, very giving person and I was very honoured to be able to call her my family,” Nakamura said.

The couple had been drinking heavily while at a friend’s house over the night of Feb. 6-7, 2022.

When another friend showed up the next morning, she found Beynon asleep in a chair with blood on his hands and shirt and Monk lying on a couch, unresponsive, covered in blood and with glass in her hair.

She was transported to Vancouver General Hospital where she died the next day. Cause of death was blunt force trauma from repeated strikes to her head with a bottle.

A count of aggravated assault against Beynon was subsequently upgraded to manslaughter. In September 2023, Beynon, who has remained in custody since the incident, pleaded guilty to the count.

Terms of probation include abstaining from consuming drugs and alcohol, reporting any relationships Beynon may have entered into and a recommendation that he enter a residential treatment for addictions upon release

Beynon’s criminal record shows a history of escalating violence against intimate partners and of flouting no contact orders – he was under one for allegedly assaulting Monk a few months before the incident

A brain injury suffered as a teenager, a troubled upbringing, a lifetime of drug use and a penchant for turning violent while intoxicated on alcohol were seen as reasons for his behaviour.

Saying she has little faith in the system to monitor Beynon once back in the community, Nakamura worries he will fall back into his old ways upon release.

Nakamura said Monk and Beynon were together for about five years and their relationship appeared to be going reasonably well when they were living in Vancouver. But she said it  appeared to turn for the worse when they moved back to Fort St. James after a few years.

“When he’s sober, he’s actually a nice, kind generous person – somebody that you would want to hang out with – but when he drinks and he has hard time controlling his drinking, he turns into a very different person,” Nakamura said.