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I've hit rock bottom, says convicted killer Darryl Sheepway at sentencing hearing

'Not one day has gone by where I haven't wished I could go back and change things,' Sheepway said in court, reading from a prepared statement.

His conviction means an automatic life sentence, at issue is when he might be eligible for parole

Darryl Sheepway, seen here in an undated photo, was convicted in January of second-degree murder in the 2015 death of Christopher Brisson in Whitehorse. (Yukon News)

Darryl Sheepway, who was convicted in January of second-degree murder in the 2015 death of Christopher Brisson in Whitehorse, told his sentencing hearing on Friday that he's "hit rock bottom" and is determined to turn himself around.

He also offered an emotional apology to Brisson's family, saying he "would never be naive enough to ask your forgiveness."

Sheepway's conviction means an automatic life sentence. At issue is when he might be eligible for parole — with Crown prosecutors arguing that he should be eligible after 15 years, and defence arguing for the minimum of 10 years.

Sheepway himself testified at the hearing on Friday, and read a prepared statement. 

"Not one day has gone by where I haven't wished I could go back and change things ... I'm truly sorry for the horror I've put your family through," he read.

Roch Brisson, Christopher's father, was in the gallery, but refused to look at Sheepway while the statement was read.

Sheepway's parents and sister travelled from Ontario to be at Friday's hearing. A friend of Sheepway's from Whitehorse was also in court to watch.

One point of contention between prosecutors and Sheepway's lawyers is his prospects for rehabilitation. At his trial last year, Sheepway described his addictions to crack cocaine and marijuana, and said his crack addiction led to his final encounter with Brisson, who had been selling him drugs.

Sheepway told the hearing on Friday that he is determined now to seek treatment. 

Crown prosecutor Jennifer Grandy — and Justice Leigh Gower — cast doubt on that, however, saying there was little evidence that Sheepway had hit "rock bottom," and that evidence from the trial showed that Sheepway had lied in the past about efforts to curb his drug use.

Grandy also argued that Sheepway has a "high level of moral blameworthiness" for his crime, because Brisson was unarmed and trying to flee when the shooting occurred. She also pointed out that in his verdict, Gower determined the shooting was intentional, and that Sheepway wasn't in an abnormal state of mind at the time.

Defence counsel Lynn MacDiarmid argued that there is no reason to increase parole ineligibility beyond the minimum 10 years. She maintained the killing was out of character for Sheepway, calling it a "dark time" caused by a severe addiction to crack cocaine. Letters written by Sheepway's family and friends attest to the fact he was a "gentle, caring member of society," and led a respectable life before "submitting" to the addiction.

MacDiarmid admitted that Sheepway's use of a firearm during the robbery, and his treatment of Brisson's body after the murder were aggravating factors.

Sheepway also described his life in prison, since being arrested two years ago. He said he spent the first 15 days in segregation, and was then moved to a secure living unit. He says his requests for better conditions, programming or work opportunities were all ignored. 

"I've often described it as feeling like torture. I have absolutely nothing to do except watch TV. It's pretty hard to try to deal with that," he told the court on Friday.

His situation has improved since then, he said, as he now has access to a psychologist, and an art kit. He told the hearing he wants to see the psychologist more often.

The defence wants Justice Gower to consider the conditions of incarceration when determining when Sheepway can be eligible for parole.

Sheepway also pleaded guilty to and was convicted on nine charges relating to a string of robberies he committed in Ontario after Brisson's murder. The Crown is asking for seven years on each of those counts, the defence is arguing for 5.

The sentencing hearing wrapped up Friday afternoon. The parties will be back in court May 8 to schedule the date for Justice Gower's decision.

With files from Alexandra Byers

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