Iqaluit man pleads guilty to manslaughter in spouse's death

An Iqaluit man pleaded guilty Friday to manslaughter in the 2004 strangling death of his common-law spouse.

An Iqaluit man pleaded guilty Friday to manslaughter in the 2004 strangling death of his common-law spouse.

Pat Anablak, 54, entered the guilty plea in a crowded Iqaluit courtroom, replacing his original not-guilty plea on a second-degree murder charge.

Anablak's case went to trial last year but ended in a mistrial after he dismissed his lawyer in October. The court had been in the process of arranging a new trial when Anablak opted to enter a guilty plea.

Sitting with his long, white beard standing out against a blue jail sweatshirt, Anablak listened passively Friday as new defence lawyer Andy Maher told the court that Anablak accepts full responsibility for killing Sylvia Lyall-Ritchie, as there was no other explanation as to how the 41-year-old ended up strangled to death in their bedroom in June 2004.

Maher said his client does not remember anything that happened leading up to her death. Anablak recalled that he and Lyall-Ritchie had been drinking heavily all week, and that she had gone out at one point.

The court was told that Anablak woke up after passing out on the bathroom floor, only to find Lyall-Ritchie strangled to death in the bedroom they shared.

For two days, Anablak prayed and was in shock as Lyall-Ritchie's body remained in the bedroom. Anablak was too afraid to call police, the court was told.

When police did arrive, they found Lyall-Ritchie's body in a state of decomposition, court was told. A family member said the body was covered in bruises.

Maher told the court that Anablak eventually came to the realization that there was no other explanation for how his partner died, hence his decision to plead guilty.

In court, Maher and Crown prosecutor Brian Bell came to a joint submission regarding sentencing, with a recommendation of 15 years in prison.

What they have yet to agree on is the amount of credit to be granted for the time Anablak has already spent in jail. Maher wants Anablak to receive double credit for every month he has been in custody, while Bell is calling for time and a half.

Nunavut Court Judge Robert Kilpatrick will sentence Anablak on Feb. 28.

Family members and friends of Lyall-Ritchie wept throughout Friday's proceedings, with some saying they are angry with all the delays in legal proceedings.