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Slaying exposes squalor on reserve

Youth admits manslaughter, gets six months

A young man who fatally stabbed a violent party guest on a northern Manitoba reserve has been handed a six-month jail sentence.

In a case that shines a grim light on social issues that plague the remote community of Shamattawa, provincial court Judge Murray Thompson ruled against a request from provincial prosecutors to keep the offender in jail for a longer period.

The 19-year-old man recently pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He cannot be identified because he was charged and sentenced as a youth for the killing of Charles Beardy, 39, on Nov. 27, 2011. The Crown did not seek an adult sentence.

"The actions of the accused fell short of murder due to a combination of factors where the Crown could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt he had the requisite intent to kill," Thompson said in a recent written decision made public Friday.

After noting the offender's time served on remand, the judge ordered he spend a further six months of community supervision, with probation to follow.

Beardy was stabbed a single time through a crack in a door while trying to force his way back into a party he was kicked out of due to a violent outburst.

Witnesses said Beardy attacked the offender's mother and knocked her unconscious with a board before being thrown out of the party. Another guest was also struck, Thompson said.

"That's for beating up my mom," the offender, then 17, said after the stabbing, according to witnesses.

"I tried to scare him off -- I think I got him," he reportedly said. Local RCMP found Beardy collapsed on a nearby road.

The "chaotic" party and conflicting information about who was responsible triggered a lengthy police investigation. The offender wasn't charged for killing Beardy until weeks after the incident.

Beardy had an extensive record for violent crimes, including 27 assault convictions since 1997, and the offender witnessed Beardy committing violent acts in the past, Thompson said.

Defence lawyer Dan Manning told court the youth was "terrified" of Beardy's actions that night. He had no criminal record.

"(His actions) appear to be a one-time event, given the unique circumstances he faced on the night in question," Thompson said.

In his sentencing report, Thompson undertook a full analysis of the alarming social conditions in Shamattawa, 365 kilometres east of Thompson, and how they relate to the offender's actions. A report presented in court painted a "bleak" picture of a community where 61 per cent of the housing needs major repair, unemployment is rampant and just five per cent of the population have a high school diploma.

"Suicide levels reflect the bleak outlook in Shamattawa," the judge said. "In 2007, 74 youth attempted suicide. During the first five months of 2008, 47 people attempted suicide, this from an on-reserve population base of less than 1,500 people," he noted.

The offender admitted "that there is really nothing else to do in Shamattawa but to consume alcohol or intoxicants," Thompson said. "Overall, (he) is not favourable towards crime and he does not have a propensity towards violence," the judge quoted from the report.

Raised in a stable home by his grandparents until he was 10, the accused later bounced in and out of foster care when his parents' major substance abuse caused Child and Family Services to step in and apprehend him. His four siblings are also in CFS care.

At 14, he attended a residential treatment program to deal with his drinking. He was eventually placed in a Winnipeg foster home and was excelling in school before the stabbing and his arrest, Thompson said.

"It is not surprising that in this context of community and social dysfunction, that (he) became involved with the criminal justice system," the judge said.

Given the factors of the case and the youth justice laws, longer jail time was not required, Thompson said. Community supervision prohibits the youth from drinking, puts him on a nightly curfew and he must take counselling as directed by corrections officials.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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