Crown drops assault charges against Łutselk'e chief

Assault charges were stayed against Darryl Marlowe, the chief of Łutselk'e on Wednesday, but he remains accused of operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

Darryl Marlowe still accused of driving a snowmobile while intoxicated

Two assault charges against Łutselk'e Chief Darryl Marlowe were stayed on Wednesday. Police say the charges were laid after an incident in the early morning hours of Jan. 3. Marlowe remains charged with impaired driving on the same date. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Assault charges were stayed against Darryl Marlowe, chief of Łutselk'e on Wednesday, but he remains accused of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol.

The prosecutor handling the case would not provide any details about why the two assault charges were stayed, other than to say after reviewing all of the evidence available, it was unlikely that Marlowe would be convicted of the charges.

In documents police used to seize blood samples taken from Marlowe as part of their investigation of the impaired driving charge, the RCMP laid out details of the investigation they say led to the charges.

The details are in a statement, known as an information to obtain, sworn by one of the Łutselk'e RCMP officers who first responded to and investigated the alleged incidents.

Cpl. Harland Venema says they got a call about an assault in progress shortly after 1 a.m. The unidentified caller told police that Marlowe, 34, was "going crazy" and had assaulted two family members.

In his statement, Cpl. Venema says that 15 minutes later, the Łutselk'e RCMP got another call. It was Marlowe's aunt, saying her nephew had crashed a snowmobile near the fire station and needed help.

Venema, who has been with the RCMP for 19 years, said when police arrived they found Marlowe unconscious on his back on the side of the road, with some pieces of a snowmobile on the road and the machine itself a little further up the road.

They performed first aid on the chief, placed him on a spine board to protect his back and took him to the health centre.

In his statement, Venema says that, shortly after, his partner Cstl. Andrew Johnstone, took a recorded audio statement from one of the witnesses. Venema says the witness told Johnstone that Marlowe had been drinking rum and became argumentative, which escalated into him "freaking out and throwing things around."

The witness told police Marlowe had assaulted two people in the home then had taken off on a snowmobile parked outside.

That night, they interviewed another witness who said she tried to stop Marlowe from leaving on the snowmobile, then followed him on a quad to where he crashed.

Police charged Marlowe with two counts of assault two weeks later, after he'd returned to the community from the hospital in Yellowknife.

Revised statements

The same day, the two witnesses said they wanted to revise the statements they had given to police. One said she was very tired when she gave her first statement and "wasn't fully myself." She said nothing more than "a little argument" had happened and the alleged assaults weren't assaults at all, but accidents that resulted from a fall.

That witness said she had lied to police earlier about Marlowe drinking hard liquor to avoid telling them that she had some wine in her house. (Alcohol is not allowed in Łutselk'e.) She said they each had a glass at dinner.

Both witnesses said that earlier, on the day of the accident, carbide bars had been placed on the skis of the snowmobile Marlowe had crashed, and the bars made it a lot more likely to flip.

But in Venema's statement, he said one of the paramedics in the medevac said the witness who said she had initially lied to police about the hard liquor told him Marlowe had started drinking the day before the accident and had consumed an entire 40-ounce bottle of hard liquor.

According to Venema's statement, the RCMP got a warrant to seize hospital records that showed Marlowe's blood alcohol level was at .047 when a sample was taken shortly after he arrived at the hospital in Yellowknife, roughly six hours after the accident. The legal limit for driving is .08.

Marlowe was the First Nation's youngest chief when he was first elected in 2017. He was voted in to a second term last October. He remains chief despite the charge he is still facing.