Fatal stabbing of father of 4 devastated family, community, court told
Geordie Wood, Renelle McDougal pleaded guilty to manslaughter in death of Cyril Weenusk
The brother of a man stabbed to death in downtown Winnipeg had to pause for breath as he stood in court and described the impact that the killing of Cyril Weenusk has had on his family.
After racing to Winnipeg following his younger brother's death in the summer of 2016, Ralph Weenusk said going home to his home community of Bunibonibee Cree Nation was devastating.
"When I got home the hardest part for me was claiming my late brother's house, all his belongings, and his four boys questioning me of why I'm throwing their dad's stuff away," he said, reading from a hand-written statement, his voice cracking.
Geordie Wood and Renelle McDougal — the two men who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Weenusk's death — hung their heads, with hands clasped in front of their face and tears in their eyes, as they listened.
"This has impacted me a lot to the point where I myself had to leave my family and my six-year-old, given that she couldn't cope with my pain and suffering, constant angers that I have," said the brother.
A father has to live with idea that had he not been sick, his son would still be alive.- Community impact statement from Bunibonibee Cree Nation
Ralph Weenusk said his brother loved being a firefighter, just like their father, who Cyril was accompanying to a medical appointment in Winnipeg when he was killed.
A statement on behalf of the community of Bunibonibee described the wider impacts the death has had.
"Cyril was a responsible young man, who was able to be steadily employed in a community that has extremely high unemployment," said Crown attorney Melissa Hazelton, reading from the statement. "A father has to live with idea that had he not been sick, his son would still be alive."
Travelling to Winnipeg for medical appointments is a common experience for people living in the north. Now, because of the "randomness and viciousness" of the attack, people are more afraid to travel for appointments, the statement said.
"We can only hope that better medical services will be offered in our community so the need to travel out will be reduced. We can only hope that in the future that Cyril's spouse and children will not face poverty and despair that is often associated with single-parent families."
Argument over beer led to stabbing
The facts of the case were read out in court on Thursday during the sentencing hearing. In the early-morning hours of June 5, 2016, Weenusk, 26, and others were standing outside the Quest Inn on Ellice Avenue, drinking beer. A group of three people, including Wood and McDougal, approached them and demanded the beer. When Weenusk refused, a member of the other group tried to grab a can, and after a brief scuffle, the three people walked off.
Weenusk followed and caught up with them about half an hour later in a back lane near a parkade on Smith Street. After getting into a verbal argument, Wood and Weenusk started throwing punches at each other. Weenusk ran down the back lane with Wood and McDougal chasing after him.
Wood then pulled out a pair of scissors and stabbed Weenusk multiple times, including once in the neck, severing his carotid artery. Wood and McDougal ran off and Weenusk was later found on the sidewalk in front of the MTS Centre.
Wood and McDougal were initially charged with second-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. The Crown is seeking a sentence of 10 years for Wood and nine years for McDougal.
Both men are in their early 20s. Wood comes from the community of St. Theresa Point First Nation and McDougal is from Wasagamack First Nation.
They both have significant substance abuse issues, which contributed to the offence, their defence lawyers said in court Thursday.
Wood's lawyer Scott Newman asked for a sentence of seven years in total, which with time served would mean he would remain in prison for a little more than three years. Tony Kavanagh, McDougal's lawyer, asked that his client be sentenced to a further two years, less a day, which would mean he would serve a sentence in a provincial institution.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Candace Grammond will announce her decision at a hearing next month.