A Pangnirtung man pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter in a case of random violence that horrified many in Iqaluit.

Jimmy Nowdluk, 29, was convicted in the death of a woman who was beaten and sexually assaulted in 2008. 

The court heard that on Sept. 8, 2008, 56-year-old Mariah Amarualik was in Iqaluit from Pond Inlet for medical treatment. Around 8 p.m., she was walking from the old medical boarding home to go comfort her sister, who had just lost a daughter to suicide.  

Amarualik was behind Inuksuk High School when she was attacked: hit on the head and sexually assaulted. A resident of Brown Row heard her screams and called the police before heading to the scene himself. He reached the scene to find a man pulling up his pants and running away.  

Amarualik was medevaced to Ottawa with a brain injury. She spent almost two years in care, unable to walk, talk or feed herself. Staff at the long-term care home where she resided said she spent several months fearful of staff, and struggling with them. A single mother, her three children were put in the care of others.  

The case caused an uproar in Iqaluit at the time, and prompted the City of Iqaluit to form a public safety committee.  

In a victim impact statement read in court, the sister Amarualik was trying to visit said her own life hasn't been the same since. She began drinking and doing drugs, and lost custody of her own children.  

Nowdluk was charged with aggravated sexual assault in February 2009. At the time, he was already in the Baffin Correctional Centre on other charges, where he has remained ever since. The charge was later raised to first-degree murder, but was reduced last fall when a judge determined manslaughter fit the facts of the case.  

In court Thursday, Nowdluk apologized to the Amarualik's family, in a voice so low it could barely be heard.

Nowdluk's lawyer, Laura Stevens, said her client had been drinking at the time of the event, and has no memory of it. She said he was shocked and horrified when presented with DNA evidence, and tearful when he heard the victim impact statements.  

Witnesses said they saw Nowdluk in the medical boarding home on the evening of the attack, looking at the patient list and talking about wanting to beat someone up.  

Crown prosecutor Amy Porteous is asking for a sentence of 14 to 18 years. Porteous pointed to Nowdluk's lengthy criminal record, including 16 findings of guilt as a youth, and nine as an adult.

Stevens wants a sentence of eight to 10 years. Stevens said Nowdluk could not expect the victim was likely to die, or suffer for such a long time, as the result of his actions. She also mentioned his two young children, ages three and four, whom he's not likely to see while serving in a federal penitentiary.  

Both lawyers agreed that Nowdluk should get credit for time already served in the overcrowded Baffin Correctional Centre.

Justice Robert Kilpatrick reserved his sentence. He plans to issue a written judgment in two to three weeks.