Sentencing options presented in Mackenzie manslaughter case

What to do with a son who beat his father to death and hid the body in the backyard shed of a Mackenzie home was the focus of a sentencing hearing on Tuesday.

He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and causing indignity to a body from the August 2014 incident. Because he committed the offence when he was 17 years old, he is being sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and his name is protected by a publication ban.

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According to an agreed statement of facts based largely on statements the son provided, in May 2014 he showed up unannounced at the door of his father's home in a trailer court in the community of about 3,800 people 186 kilometres north of Prince George, after traveling from his mother's home in Alberta.

However, his father had fallen on hard times. His trailer was dilapidated, there was little food in the home and his power was eventually cut off because he had not paid his hydro bill. As well, both were consuming marijuana and crack cocaine, the court was told.

As the days followed, they began to bicker, get into yelling matches and into physical fights.

Matters reached the boiling when, on the day of the incident, the two once again got into an argument and the son told the father he was going to kill him. While the father armed himself with a machete that had been mounted on a wall and the son got hold of a wooden club that had been sitting on top of a freezer in the same room.

When the father moved towards the son in what the latter thought was a threatening gesture, he took a swing at the older man. Still perceiving his father to be advancing, he continued to hit his father with the club.

Suffering from blows to his head, father fell to his knees and dropped the machete. Seeing his father bleeding heavily from his head and appearing unconscious and not breathing, the son tried to administer some first aid including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for what he thought was about a half hour. However, at no time did he seek help from anyone else.

When his father did not revive, the son dragged him into the bedroom, put him on the bed and used zap straps to bind his hands and ankles out of fear he would be attacked again. He went to sleep on the living room sofa and when he went to check on his father the next morning, found that he had died.

In a state of panic, he wrapped the body, secured it with more zap straps and then, under the cover of nightfall, stood him up in the backyard shed, surrounded him with other objects and screwed the shed door shut.

In the days that followed, he spent some of his time smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol while also cleaning the house of evidence and telling the neighbours his father had gone to work. He also bought a tent, stole some food from a local gas station and went camping at a nearby reservoir for about three days.

When police showed up at the door looking for his father, he provided a photo album. But the RCMP returned and while the son waited at a neighbour's home, they conducted a search. When they found the body, police went to the neighbour to make an arrest, but the son slipped away and ran for about 10 kilometres to a lake where he hid.

The next day, however, he was back in town where one of the officers recognized him and made the arrest.

Although he was not in a state of psychosis at the time of the incident, he has been diagnosed with a mental health issue that requires medication. As a consequence, both Crown and defence counsels agree he qualifies for a "therapeutic sentencing option" available under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Called an Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision order, it is for those suffering from a mental illness, psychological disorder or an emotional disturbance and have been convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault.

Crown is seeking an order lasting three years with two of them served in jail and one under close supervision.

In contrast, defence counsel Jason LeBlond argued the entire term should served in the community. For more than five years, his client has been living in a group home where he has been receiving the supports he did not get previously and has posed no trouble, he noted.

Putting him in a jail would only "disrupt a long pattern of success," LeBlond contended.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Tindale will issue a decision at a later date.

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