North

Hay River man sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter in the death of Alex Norwegian

Levi Cayen was sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter and seven years for robbery to be served concurrently. He is the last of four to be sentenced related to the death of Alex Norwegian. Norwegian was robbed, beaten and left to die on a remote road near Hay River, N.W.T., on Dec. 27, 2017.

Levi Cayen has four-and-a-half years remaining on his sentence after deducting credit for time already served

Levi Cayen was sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter and seven years for robbery to be served concurrently. He is the last of four to be sentenced related to the death of Alex Norwegian. Norwegian was robbed, beaten and left to die on a remote road near Hay River, N.W.T., on Dec. 27, 2017. (Walter Strong/CBC)

N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood said that the level of violence Levi Cayen and his co-accused displayed "was gratuitous to what they hoped to achieve."

And for his role in Alex Norwegian's death, Smallwood sentenced Cayen to 11 years for manslaughter and seven years for robbery on Thursday. Both sentences are to be served concurrently.

After deducting six-and-a-half years of credit for time served, Cayen has four-and-a-half years remaining on his sentence.

In March, a jury convicted Cayen of manslaughter. He had originally been charged with murder, and he pleaded guilty to robbery before the trial began. 

Cayen is the last of four co-accused to be sentenced in connection with the killing and robbing of Norwegian on Dec. 27, 2017.

Cayen, along with James Thomas, met Norwegian on a remote road on the Kátł'odeeche Fırst Natıon reserve.

The men beat him with a bat and steel pipe, used rope to confine him, stole his clothes, smashed in his car windows and left Norwegian to die — ultimately of hypothermia — on the side of the road. 

A photo exhibit entered during the trial of James George Thomas shows the Mazda Protege, with broken windows, that the victim of a robbery and beating was found in more than a day after the attack. (Public Prosecution Service of Canada)

In his submissions earlier this week, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught argued Cayen should face 15 years in custody on the manslaughter conviction. 

He listed the planning, the brutality of the attack, the use of weapons and the burning of evidence after the fact as aggravating factors that merit the lengthy sentence. 

Alan Regel, representing Cayen, said that the four and a half years Cayen has already spent at the North Slave Correctional Centre (NSCC) is enough. 

Regel argued Cayen should be sentenced to time served and 18 months of probation. 

He pointed to a letter of support from the chief of West Point First Nation as evidence of "a bright future" for the man in his early twenties. 

Justice rejects defence's recommendation

Smallwood said that the sentence Regel proposed was "inappropriate" and that Praught's submission would be more suitable. 

She said that Cayen showed remorse for his actions, pointing to his attempt to call police after committing the crime, and to later comments to police about wishing it was he who died rather than Norwegian and statements in his pre-sentence report about feeling regret and shame. 

Smallwood considered his regret mitigating.

She also said that counselling and programs he had been taking in custody were mitigating factors, and so were relevant Gladue factors. 

Although Cayen grew up in an unstable household with violence and drinking present, his parents and grandparents are now sober. 

Cayen's mother testified to now being able to share skills to cope with difficulties rather than turning to alcohol. 

Smallwood said this and the letter from his band demonstrated he would have his community's support once released from custody, which she said "he will need." 

Smallwood acknowledged Cayen was going through personal struggles at the time of his crimes. He struggled with alcohol and had been admitted to the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife for being suicidal. 

She said that Cayen's "moral blameworthiness" is "reduced to an extent by his personal circumstances, but it remains high." 

Alex Norwegian's life was cut short the night he was robbed and beaten near Hay River five years ago. (Randi Beers/CBC)

The court heard earlier in the week from 14 of Norwegian's loved ones who spoke to the impact of his loss. 

Smallwood was presented accounts of a man who loved kids, music and his family. 

The victim impact statements spoke to 25-year-old Norwegian's potential, and how he knew his involvement in the drug world was wrong. 

Some of the statements criticized what they called "light" sentences for Cayen's co-accused. 

Sasha Cayen was sentenced to three years and seven months for manslaughter and Tyler Cayen was sentenced to two years for accessory to manslaughter for their respective roles in Norwegian's killing. 

James Thomas was also convicted in Norwegian's death. Last year, Justice Andrew Mahar convicted Thomas of second-degree murder and robbery. Mahar sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. Thomas is appealing that sentence.

Cayen addressed the court at Thursday's hearing. 

He apologized for his actions and asked for Norwegian's family's forgiveness. 

"Not a day goes by that I don't feel shame for that night," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. Reach her at: natalie.pressman@cbc.ca.

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