A young man who killed a 17-year-old at a Saskatoon house party following a dispute over a baseball cap has been sentenced to a five-year prison term.
Saskatoon Queen's Bench Justice Neil Gabrielson sentenced Bailey Bradley Lonechild, 20, Tuesday morning.
Lonechild pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter in connection with the August, 2005 death of Justin Sproat.
The five-year sentence is considered the equivalent of six years after taking into account the time Lonechild has already served on remand and under the restrictive terms of his release.
"Only a significant term of imprisonment can provide an appropriate denouncement of the act which took a promising young life, and also deter others from heading down a similar path of combining alcohol or drugs and concealed weapons," Gabrielson said in his 12-page written decision.
The Crown had been calling for a minimum of seven years, while the defence had argued for a sentence less than two years.
Dispute over hat led to stabbing
Sproat died after being stabbed in the heart following a dispute over a ball cap at a Saskatoon house party on Aug. 5, 2005.
Gabrielson said Lonechild had been drinking before he showed up at the party. Before he arrived, Sproat had taken another teen's hat away and sold it for $20.
Lonechild and the other teen tried to get the hat back, but Sproat refused. Words were exchanged, and Sproat grabbed Lonechild and began to hit him, Gabrielson said. Lonechild removed a knife from his pocket and stabbed Sproat in the chest. Sproat died before or just after he arrived at the hospital.
Lonechild was charged with second-degree murder. The judge later accepted his plea to the lesser and included charge of manslaughter.
The judge noted that Sproat's family has been shattered by their loss and that the passage of time has not eased their pain.
"The family was shocked and traumatized not only by the loss of such a beloved member, but by the senselessness of the interaction which caused it," he said. "It is to be hoped that the completion of this sentencing hearing will allow some form of closure for the family."
Faith lost in justice system: Sproat family
Outside court, however, Justin Sproat's father, Dean, said he was "very disappointed" with the sentence, noting that Lonechild could be out of prison in three years.
"We lose all our faith in the justice system," he said. "This is not going to be a deterrent. And more families are going to have to go through what we just went through."
Lonechild's grandmother Rose Shesheep said he was a good boy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lonechild shouldn't have been carrying a knife on that fateful night, she said.
"This drug business and alcohol is just ruining everybody," she said. "There shouldn't be anybody carrying knives around like this. Parents should realize and start talking to their children now."
The judge said there were mitigating factors that influenced his decision, including Lonechild's young age, lack of a previous criminal record and the fact that he took responsibility by pleading guilty.
All of those factors make one optimistic that Lonechild can be rehabilitated, Gabrielson said.