Judge says there's no excuse, no explanation for brutal beating death of Good Samaritan in hotel

The victim of a brutal beating died simply because he had tried to save his killer’s life earlier that day, a Manitoba judge said on Tuesday morning.

James Jarrow, 48, sentenced to 9.5 years for manslaughter in death of Walter Lavasseur

James Jarrow, 48, was sentenced to nine and a half years behind bars for manslaughter in the 2015 death of Walter Lavasseur, 56, in a Higgins Avenue hotel room. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The victim of a brutal October 2015 beating died simply because he had tried to save his killer's life earlier on the day he was killed, a Manitoba judge said on Tuesday morning. 

James Jarrow, 48, was sentenced to nine and a half years behind bars for manslaughter in the death of Walter Lavasseur, 56, in a Higgins Avenue hotel room. 

"There is no excuse for what you did, but neither is there a good explanation for what happened," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin said during Tuesday's sentencing. 

Lavasseur and Jarrow had known each other for about 10 years and had previously shared apartments. They were both living in the Mount Royal Hotel in different rooms in 2015 and had spent many nights drinking together, court heard. 

On Oct. 11, 2015, Jarrow had been drinking with a woman and became unconscious. She tried to wake him but the woman eventually went to Lavasseur's room to get help. 

Lavasseur and the woman tried again to wake Jarrow, even attempting to lift him and eventually dropping him on the floor, but when he remained unresponsive they called hotel staff to get paramedics, court heard. 

[Walter Lavasseur] is going to be missed by me as well. He was a friend of mine.- James Jarrow

Paramedics arrived and Jarrow eventually woke up. But he was incensed that someone had come into his room, court heard. Only 10 minutes after paramedics left he angrily made his way to Lavasseur's room one floor above in the hotel, court heard. 

Crown prosecutor Deann Sahulka showed court four short videos of security camera footage from the hallway outside Lavasseur's room. She described how Jarrow went to Lavasseur's room in a "rage." 

Jarrow first confronted Lavasseur in the hallway and eventually forced Lavasseur into his room, court heard, where he started to beat him.

The video showed Jarrow leaving the room, closing the door behind him. He went back to his room, Sahulka said, but was still full of anger and decided to go back and beat Lavasseur more.

Another video showed Jarrow entering Lavasseur's room again and staying inside for a few minutes before leaving, once again closing the door behind him. 

Jarrow never returned to check on the man he told court was a friend. 

'Absence of empathy'

Two days later, after people in the hotel were concerned that no one had seen Lavasseur, his body was found face down in his room on the floor, court heard. 

The cause of Lavasseur's death was hematoma — a swelling of blood clotted in tissue — from blunt force trauma to the head, court heard. There were nine separate bruising areas on Lavasseur's head. 

Court heard that it would have taken almost a day for Lavasseur to die from the untreated injuries.   

"Mr. Lavasseur was nothing more than trying to be a Good Samaritan," Sahulka said. 
The victim of a brutal October 2015 beating died simply because he had tried to save his killer's life earlier on the day he was killed, a Manitoba judge said on Tuesday morning. James Jarrow was sentenced to nine and a half years behind bars for manslaughter in the death of Walter Lavasseur in a Higgins Avenue hotel room. 0:55

"Mr. Jarrow closing that door ultimately sealed the victim's fate," she added, saying if the door was open other people in the hotel would have noticed and it's likely Lavasseur would have received medical treatment. 

When given the opportunity to speak, Jarrow told the court that he had no intention of hurting anyone that night. 

But he maintained that no one should have entered his room and gave conflicting statements about whether a paramedic should have been called when he was unconscious after drinking.

"[Lavasseur] is going to be missed by me as well. He was a friend of mine," Jarrow said at the end of his statement. 

Justice Martin said Jarrow was "particularly callous" when he left his friend injured on the floor and didn't check on him in the following days. 

He added that Jarrow's comments to court show he has an "absence of empathy" and a long way to go to see the death in terms of what actually happened, noting his friend was just trying to help before Jarrow beat him to death.