Charlotte Lafferty's killer's violent past exposed as identity revealed

A publication ban that's shielded the identity of Charlotte Lafferty's killer for more than three years has been lifted. Keenan McNeely was convicted of murdering the 23-year-old young mother in Fort Good Hope in March of 2014.

Keenan McNeely, now 21, convicted of murdering Lafferty in Fort Good Hope in March 2014

Keenan McNeely is escorted by police after a court appearance on Feb. 11, 2016. A publication ban that's shielded his identity for more than three years has been lifted. (Cody Punter)

A publication ban that's shielded the identity of Charlotte Lafferty's killer for more than three years has been lifted.

Keenan McNeely brutally murdered and sexually assaulted the 23-year-old young mother in Fort Good Hope the morning of March 22, 2014.

McNeely is now 21. But at the time he murdered Lafferty, he was less than a month from his 18th birthday and, as a result, automatically protected by a publication ban.

When McNeely was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no parole for 10 years, the youth publication ban was no longer in effect. But his lawyer notified the judge that he was going to apply to have the ban extended. The judge ordered a temporary ban to prevent McNeely from being identified until that argument could be heard.

However, earlier this month, the lawyer withdrew that application, and the temporary ban was lifted.

Community torn apart

Though the publication ban was in effect until earlier this month, most residents of Fort Good Hope have known all along that McNeely was accused, then convicted, of killing Lafferty.

That knowledge has torn the community apart. Both murderer and victim are members of large families in the small Sahtu community. In fact, Lafferty was a distant cousin of his.

In the weeks after Lafferty's murder, the band council implemented an alcohol ban in the community. Some members of McNeely's family, including his mother and father, moved to different communities.

Some of the victim impact statements presented during the case, as well as letters urging the judge not to sentence McNeely as an adult, were written by people related to both Lafferty and McNeely.

Past violence

According to reports prepared for his sentencing, McNeely had numerous instances of violence  during his teenage years.

His father abused alcohol and spent some time in jail when McNeely was a child, but has been sober for more than 12 years now. He sat through almost every day of court proceedings during his son's murder case.

According to one pre-sentence report, as a child, McNeely witnessed his father being badly beaten up by relatives. They kicked and stomped his face and head.

McNeely did the same thing to a Fort Good Hope man before he murdered Lafferty. He was convicted of assault causing bodily harm for stomping and kicking a man in the face and head when he was down, then throwing a bench on him. It was a precursor to the much more violent and merciless attack on Lafferty.

A memorial for Charlotte Lafferty stands in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. (submitted by Yvonne Doolittle)

McNeely often downplayed his problems — as well as his crimes — during his interviews with psychiatrists and youth workers.

"When asked about the victim's family, he initially said he would move out of there to B.C. or Saskatchewan and then talked about losing his sister, him being in jail and his mother feeling she has lost both of her kids," wrote one psychiatrist. "When questioned again about the victim's family, he stated they would be sad but he's already done a lot of time in custody."

McNeely told the psychiatrist, Manhoor Sultana, that he was never suspended or expelled from school. School records show he was suspended at least twice — in 2009 for fighting in class, and in 2011 for showing up for school drunk.

He told Dr. Sultana that he skipped school on a few occasions. He had 174 absences in Grade 11 alone.

But according to all reports, during his time in custody, McNeely has been a model prisoner. One caseworker described him as, "one of the most manageable offenders I've had to supervise." A teacher at the North Slave Correctional Centre says when McNeely arrived he was at a Grade 4-5 level, but is now at Grade 9.

McNeely now awaits a hearing to determine where he will serve his minimum of ten years in prison. It's scheduled to take place July 11, but may be held earlier if court time can be freed up.