TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Anne Lacquette, the grandmother of Duane Lacquette, sobs as she is helped from the Brandon courthouse on Thursday after Jason John Ouimet was sentenced in the manslaughter death of Duane Lacquette. Ouimet was sentenced to five years in prison.
Former soldier Jason John Ouimet has been sentenced to five years in prison for the killing of Duane (Jon Jon) Lacquette.
Eugene Lacquette, uncle of Duane Lacquette, walks away from the Brandon courthouse with supporters after speaking to the media on Thursday after Jason John Ouimet was sentenced in the manslaughter death of Duane Lacquette. Ouimet was sentenced to five years in prison. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
In striking a plea bargain with defence, Crown attorney Jim Ross said he acknowledged that Ouimet’s explanation was consistent with the evidence.
Ouimet killed Lacquette after he awoke to find the victim sexually assaulting him.
"Infuriated by this unwelcome sexual touching he choked Duane Lacquette to death," Ross said on Thursday during sentencing in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench.
Lacquette, 21, was found lying dead on the basement floor of his home on the 3600-block of Centennial Boulevard on Jan. 16, 2010. Two friends found his body after he failed to show up for work.
Ouimet, a soldier posted at CFB Shilo who had no previous criminal record, was arrested on Feb. 4, 2010.
Initially charged with second-degree murder, Ouimet was released on bail and ultimately pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter on April 30.
The plea came just as he was scheduled to begin his jury trial.
Sentencing was set for Thursday, when Ross and Ouimet’s lawyer, Roberta Campbell, described the events surrounding Lacquette’s death.
On the evening of Jan. 15, 2010, Ouimet and Lacquette, previously unknown to each other, were both at the same city bar.
One of Lacquette’s female friends, Carmen Teskey, had met Ouimet the week before and invited him to a party at Lacquette’s home.
The partiers, including Lacquette and Ouimet, continued to drink into the early morning.
Eventually, only Lacquette and Ouimet remained in the home and Ouimet had fallen asleep in the basement.
What happened next is based on what Ouimet later confessed to a friend and fellow soldier and the evidence summarized by Ross and Campbell.
Lacquette was gay, and Ouimet, who is straight, told his friend that he’d awoken to find Lacquette lying naked on top of him. Ouimet said Lacquette was trying to "rape" him and Campbell told court that Ouimet discovered "suction marks" on his penis.
Ouimet punched Lacquette a few times to get free of him. When Lacquette fought back, Ouimet placed him in a MMA-style chokehold.
Lacquette died of strangulation and Ouimet, unable to look at his body, covered the victim with a blanket and fled the home.
Campbell said Ouimet, who knew Lacquette was gay before he attended the party, had been propositioned by Lacquette at the party earlier in the night.
Ouimet declined and went to cuddle up with a girl on the couch in the basement, but she left when he fell asleep, leaving the soldier and Lacquette alone in the house.
The adrenaline and shock of waking up to find himself being sexually assaulted led Ouimet to use too much force in his effort to subdue Lacquette, Campbell said.
"This is not a situation that developed because Mr. Lacquette was gay … This is a reaction to being sexually assaulted," Campbell said.
Ross said a drop of blood on the inner thigh of Lacquette’s jeans supported the suggestion that Lacquette was naked before the struggle began.
The bruises to Lacquette’s head and the injuries to his neck, including a broken bone in his throat, indicated that the victim had been struck at least three times and then choked.
The injuries were consistent with a brief burst of violence, Ross said, even though it would take a chokehold more than 40 seconds to cause death.
Ouimet could easily have subdued Lacquette, Ross said. The former soldier is 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds and was a medal-winning amateur boxer; Lacquette was 5-foot-7 and 164 pounds with no fighting skills.
Ouimet’s explanation is consistent with the evidence and the account of Lacquette’s previous behaviour, Ross said.
During a preliminary hearing in April 2011, court heard that Lacquette would tell friends of one-night stands with men who had initially seemed straight.
Ross said there was also evidence that Lacquette had once propositioned a straight cab driver and that once, after drinking, he’d touched a man without being invited.
If the case had gone to trial, Ross said, it’s possible that a jury would have concluded that Ouimet was provoked and convicted him of manslaughter.
Thursday’s hearing featured emotional victim impact statements from Lacquette’s father, mother, grandmother, sister, eight-year-old brother and former boyfriend.
They described their struggles in coping with Lacquette’s death but also shared happy memories.
Lacquette was an honour student and leader in high school, and an excellent fiddler. He was once chosen to play for the Queen during one of her visits to Canada.
They remembered him as a happy, good-hearted, popular young man. Many of his friends have gotten tattoos in his name. The hotel lounge and restaurant supervisor had received a promotion at work and he’d hoped to buy his parents a home some day.
"If Jon Jon could speak to Jason, I know he would say ‘I forgive you,’" Lacquette’s uncle, Eugene Lacquette, said as he read from a statement prepared by Duane’s deaf father who is unable to speak.
For the first time, court also heard about Ouimet’s background.
The 31-year-old is from Kingston, Ont., and he had never been in conflict with the law before. As a teen, he won the middleweight boxing title at the Canada Winter Games.
After graduating from high school, he studied law and security in college and eventually joined the army. He’s been passed up for two promotions because of the charge he was facing.
In December 2011, Ouimet married, and he’s now a stepfather to an eight-year-old daughter.
A friend and his stepfather wrote letters and told court that Ouimet was remorseful for what he had done. In court, Ouimet offered Lacquette’s family an apology.
"I’m very sorry for your loss, I didn’t mean for anyone to lose their life on that night," Ouimet said. "If I could go back and change everything I would, but I can’t."
Calling it a "truly tragic" case, Justice John Menzies accepted the plea bargain and sentenced Ouimet to five years in prison. He also agreed to have Ouimet transferred to an Ontario prison to be near his family.
Ouimet’s mother broke into tears after the sentence was delivered. She and Ouimet’s stepfather declined comment following court.
Lacquette’s mother and grandmother both sobbed following court and his uncle expressed the family’s disappointment with the sentence.
"It’s not the outcome that we wanted, for sure," Eugene said outside the courthouse, adding the decision wouldn’t bring closure. "We’re still leaving the courtroom without Jon Jon."
Lacquette’s former boyfriend and long-term friend, Jordan Epp, said he got little satisfaction from the sentence — which was a quarter of what he would have expected — or from Ouimet’s apology.
"It doesn’t matter, you know he should have just said nothing … You’re not sorry, don’t tell me you’re sorry, don’t tell us you’re sorry," Epp said. "You’re just putting on a show because it’s your sentencing day."
Ouimet, 31, was a gunner with the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery at the time of the killing.
A CFB Shilo spokeswoman says Ouimet was "released" following a review and is no longer a member of the Armed Forces as of May 25.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 8, 2012