Manitoba

Family unhappy with plea deal in brutal beating death of father of 4

The family of a northern Manitoba man beaten to death in downtown Winnipeg by strangers is disappointed the men responsible won't face life behind bars.

Men convicted in random downtown attack plead guilty to manslaughter, avoid possible life sentence

Cyril Weenusk, 26, was beaten to death in Winnipeg on July 5, 2016. He was a father of four from Oxford House, Man. (Family photo)

The family of a northern Manitoba man beaten to death in downtown Winnipeg by strangers is disappointed the men responsible won't face life behind bars.

Geordie Wood and Renelle McDougal pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of manslaughter in the random beating death of Cyril Weenusk two years ago. The Crown and defence will recommend a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at sentencing.

The accused men, both in their 20s, were initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of the 26-year-old father of four. If convicted, they would have faced a minimum sentence of life in prison with no parole for 10 years.

"They don't feel that manslaughter is sufficient to what happened to Cyril, and I don't think so either," said Grand Chief Sheila North of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, who spoke to Weenusk's father and sister on Monday.

"They should have been handed down the fullest extent of the law, but at the same time it's good to see some justice," said North, a second cousin to Weenusk. 

Wood and McDougal agreed to the plea deal at Court of Queen's Bench on Monday morning in Winnipeg before the scheduled second-degree murder trial. 

Cyril Quentin Weenusk's sons, left, hold a picture of their father at the vigil held for the 26-year-old. (Pierre Verriere/CBC)

Weenusk, from the Bunibonibee Cree Nation in Oxford House, was found injured near Portage Avenue and Donald Street around 3:50 a.m. on July 5, 2016. He later died in hospital.

Family members said Weenusk was in Winnipeg at the time of the attack to accompany his father, who has cancer, to chemotherapy and dialysis treatments.

Weenusk became involved in a "chance encounter" with a group of people he did not know, police said.

The Crown and defence will recommend a custodial sentence of 7-10 years for Wood and 6-10 years for McDougal, the court heard Monday.

Wood's lawyer said his client has no memory of the incident but is willing to accept his involvement. The court was not informed Monday why Wood does not recall the early morning attack. 

A pile of clothing was on the ground near a bus shelter on Portage Avenue on July 5, 2016, where police investigated the homicide death of Cyril Weenusk. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson said after court the weapon used in the altercation was a small pair of medical scissors, carried by Wood.

North said the family is experiencing mixed emotions as they learned of the plea deal.

"Every time they come back to Winnipeg for appointments, they have to pass by the area where he was killed. It brings back tragic and horrible feelings about losing Cyril in such a tragic way," she said.

In a 2016 interview, North described Weenusk as a "very soft-spoken, very kind person."

Father of four loving, kind

"He was a very, very loving man and he loved his family," she told CBC News.

Weenusk had four kids, a common-law girlfriend, a brother, a sister and a dad who were very close, she said.

He worked on a provincial firefighting crew in the summer.

"He was just a young guy that, you know, he had a lot of pride in himself. He loved to hunt and fish, so he was a regular Indigenous man living on reserve and making the most out of what he had."

Weenusk was so brutally beaten that dental records were needed to identify him, she said.

Victim impact statements are expected to be heard at the sentencing hearing this December. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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