Charlotte Lafferty's killer loses appeal, will serve adult sentence

A three-judge appeal court panel has ruled Keenan McNeely will serve out his sentence as an adult for the murder of Charlotte Lafferty, ending the man's appeal to have that sentencing decision overturned.

Keenan McNeely was sentenced as an adult in 2017 for the murder of a young mother in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T.

Keenan McNeely's appeal of his adult sentence was denied Tuesday. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Keenan McNeely has lost his appeal to have his adult sentence for the 2014 murder of Charlotte Lafferty in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., overturned.

Lafferty was 23 at the time, and a mother to three boys.

It took only 15 minutes for the three-judge appeal panel to reach its decision in Yellowknife Tuesday.

Though he murdered Lafferty just prior to his 18th birthday, McNeely was sentenced as an adult in April 2017 to life without parole for at least ten years due to the severity of the crime.

The earliest McNeely will be eligible for parole is March 2024 when he will be 28 years old. Had he been sentenced as a youth, McNeely could have been released as early as last November.

McNeely's request to serve the remainder of his sentence in the North was also dismissed. However the appeal court judges said it's open for McNeely to apply to do so in the future. 

Charlotte Lafferty, 23, was a mother of three boys. (Louisa Lafferty)

'I know I made a big mistake'

During his appeal hearing, McNeely for the first time admitted guilt in Lafferty's death. 

"I know I made a big mistake. I hope that one day Charlotte's family can forgive me," he told the court.

"I would do anything to take back that tragic day … I was 17 at the time and I was going through a lot at that time," he added, noting the death of his sister who he said froze to death after leaving a party alone.

Following the decision, Lafferty's mother, Louisa Lafferty told reporters she's happy the case is over but she wants to take time before commenting further as she and her family are working on healing.  

Crown prosecutor Blair MacPherson said now that the case is over the families affected and community of Fort Good Hope can move forward. (Randall Mckenzie/CBC)

Crown prosecutor Blair MacPherson said the decision provides closure for the families affected, the community of Fort Good Hope which "was devastated by this murder" and others involved in the case.

"Finally after many years this is the end of this case," he said.

"Hopefully the families involved and the community can use this and try to reconcile and move forward."

'I've never seen anything like it'

McNeely's court-appointed lawyer John Hale noted it was a difficult appeal and said he was "at a loss to find any error" with the sentencing judge's decision.

"This was an extremely sensitive handling of the sentencing that was held partly in Fort Good Hope and went on for a year. I've never seen anything like it."

John Hale, McNeely's court-appointed lawyer, said his client hasn't received any programming while he's been held in maximum security in a prison in Edmonton. (Richard Gleeson/CBC )

Hale also said McNeely hasn't received any programming while he's been held in maximum security in a prison in Edmonton.

"From his perspective, he's just being warehoused," Hale said. He hasn't been provided with any culturally sensitive programming. He was supposed to have a sweat at least once a week. He's only had one."

With files from Richard Gleeson