Manitoba

Meth fuelled brutal beating that killed Winnipeg father, sentencing hearing told

The three men who bound and beat a man to death inside a West End meth house had fallen deep into a world of addiction, paranoia and violence, defence lawyers said in a Winnipeg courtroom this week.

3 men pleaded guilty to killing Trenten Jeffrey Balonyk, 38, at West End drug house in 2017

Police found the body Trenten Jeffrey Balonyk, a 38-year-old father of two, hidden under a mattress and other 'junk' in a house on Sherbrook Street on Jan. 19, 2017. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The three men who bound and beat a man to death inside a West End meth house had fallen deep into a world of addiction, paranoia and violence, defence lawyers told a Winnipeg court this week.

"This was brutal … and there's no getting away from that," Court of Queen's Bench Justice David Kroft said Tuesday during the sentencing hearing for two of the men, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for their role in the killing.

Police found the body of Trenten Jeffrey Balonyk, a 38-year-old father of two, hidden under a mattress and other "junk" in a house on Sherbrook Street on Jan. 19, 2017. His body had been left there for days while the drug-dealing business inside the so-called "trap house" continued.

"Trent was such a good dad. He was always what I like to call the fun parent," Candice Bloomfield, mother of Balonyk's two children, said in a written victim impact statement read in court.

"I'm reminded that my children are fatherless every single day. I do not think people realized how huge of a loss Trent was to our family, and what he meant to us all."

Balonyk's sister, Tylene Balonyk, also submitted a written impact statement, in which she said the death of her brother has devastated her family. Her father, who had cancer, died a few months after Balonyk.

Charged with 1st-degree murder

Brendan Bo Severight, 27, Luke Blair Moar, 34, and Ryan Ralph Flett, 28, were initially charged with first-degree murder. They all pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this month, three days into their trial.

Severight pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced Monday to life in prison, with no parole eligibility for at least 11 years. Moar and Flett both pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received 10-year sentences on Tuesday.

Severight ran the trap house, and Moar worked for him. Flett, a frequent customer, also sometimes worked for Severight, who paid both men with meth.

I lost my moral compass. I had no value for my life or anyone else's.- Luke Moar

On Jan. 17, 2017, Balonyk went to the house at 645 Sherbrook St. around 9 a.m. Shortly after, a fight broke out and Balonyk ran down the stairs trying to escape, but Moar and Flett caught him and started beating him.

Severight then came down and joined in the beating, which included hitting Balonyk with the butt of a shotgun and a baseball bat until he lost consciousness.

Severight ordered Moar and Flett to drag Balonyk back upstairs. He was bound to a chair and beaten further. It's not clear when Balonyk suffered the fatal injury, but the beating fractured his skull and caused brain hemorrhaging.

Crown attorneys Monique Cam and Daniel Chaput told Kroft the plea deal and joint sentencing recommendations represented a "quid pro quo," and reflected challenges the Crown faced in proving its first-degree murder case.

Four witnesses who earlier gave sworn statements to police either couldn't be found, refused to co-operate, or faced questions about the reliability of their testimony because of the severity of their addictions.

Killer's life 'about as bad as you can get'

At their sentencing hearings, all three men stood and apologized to the family. Reading from a written statement, Moar spoke about the impact that meth addiction had on him.

"I lost my moral compass. I had no value for my life or anyone else's," he said.

Moar's father beat him and his mother, said his lawyer, Nicole Beasse. He came to Winnipeg as a teen to attend high school because there wasn't one in his home community of Little Grand Rapids First Nation, but with little supervision, he fell into "a party lifestyle."

Moar, who has three kids of his own, defines the moment he tried meth "as the moment his life started spiralling out of control," Beasse said.

Flett had difficulty forming the words when speaking to the family from the prisoner's box.

"It's hard to say what I wanted to say. It's just that, at least he had somebody to mourn for him. I don't really have anybody in my life," he said.

Flett began abusing drugs and alcohol at a young age. Since he stopped using meth after his arrest, he has gained 60 pounds, which "speaks to significant impact drugs had on him," said his lawyer, Andrew McKelvey-Gunson.

All three accused are Indigenous men whose families have been impacted by the history of colonization and residential schools.

Severight's lawyer, Matthew Gould, began his submission by acknowledging that nothing could excuse or justify his client's actions. He went on to detail the many difficulties his client experienced as a child, beginning with being abandoned by his mother at the funeral for his father when he was 16 months old.

Some of his earliest memories are of violence and addiction in his home — fights that left the floor covered in blood — and the suicides of his cousins.

"At every level, it's about as bad as you can get," Gould said.

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