North

Hay River man should serve 15 years for manslaughter, says Crown; victim's family lays out impact of crime

During the second day of a sentencing hearing for Levi Cayen, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught argued Cayen should be given a 10-year sentence for robbery and 15 years for manslaughter in the death of Alex Norwegian.

Levi Cayen should serve 10 years for robbery, 15 for manslaughter, says Crown prosecutor Duane Praught

Levi Cayen was convicted of manslaughter and robbery in the death of Alex Norwegian in 2017. He is being sentenced in Yellowknife this week. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

During the second day of a sentencing hearing for a Hay River man convicted of manslaughter and robbery, Crown prosecutor Duane Praught argued Levi Cayen should serve 15 years for killing Alex Norwegian in 2017, and 10 years for robbing him.

In March, a jury convicted Cayen of manslaughter instead of murder. Before his trial began, Cayen pleaded guilty to robbery.

In Yellowknife Tuesday, Norwegian was remembered in victim impact statements as a jokester, a talented guitarist and as someone who loved to play with his nieces, nephews and younger siblings.

Norwegian's girlfriend described him bringing her tea in the middle of the night to ease her panic attacks.

His aunt recalled him encouraging her kids to climb the tallest tree in her yard. 

His father told the court about how he ended all of his phone calls with: "Stay cool, I love you."

N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood reviewed 14 victim impact statements on the effects of losing Norwegian.

Cayen is one of four offenders involved in beating, robbing and leaving Norwegian to die on a remote road outside of Hay River, N.W.T.

One victim impact statement described sentences for two of Cayen's co-offenders, Sasha and Tyler Cayen, as having made the family "lose trust in the justice system."

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, a sentence Thomas is appealing.

Alex Norwegian was remembered in victim impact statements as a jokester, a talented guitarist and as someone who loved to play with his nieces, nephews and younger siblings. (Randi Beers/CBC)

High level of moral culpability, says Crown

The four were convicted after Norwegian was attacked and robbed on a remote road on the Kátł'odeeche First Nation on Dec. 27, 2017. Norwegian later died of hypothermia after he was left with a fractured skull in a windowless car in -20 C temperatures.

On Tuesday, Praught listed numerous aggravating factors that he said results in a high level of moral culpability for the crime: the planning and premeditation involved, luring Norwegian out to the remote road, how brutal the attack was, and the steel pipe and rope Cayen used during the assault.

Praught said the fact that Cayen, along with co-offender Thomas, took Norwegian's jacket and phone "displays a callous indifference to his wellbeing after the offence."

Praught also pointed to Cayen burning evidence and lying to police to cover up his crimes as further justification for the lengthy sentence.

Cayen has been in custody at the North Slave Correctional Centre (NSCC) since his arrest. Credit for pre-trial custody is normally granted at time and a half, but Praught argued Cayen should not be granted full credit for his time because of his behaviour while in custody.

Praught said there have been several instances of Cayen violating NSCC rules, including an incident where Cayen participated in obtaining a drone to bring contraband into the facility. 

Praught believes the contraband was tobacco. 

Praught also acknowledged relevant Gladue factors as mitigating. 

Defence calls witnesses, will suggest sentence Wednesday

Cayen's defence counsel, Alan Regel, called two witnesses to testify Tuesday morning. 

Jim Lynn, a chaplain at NSCC, was the first. 

He spoke of how he has gotten to know Cayen during his time at the facility and described Cayen as being "very remorseful." 

Cayen "certainly wishes [the crime] hadn't happened," Lynn said, "and would like to make amends in his life."

Lynn said that over "four-plus" years, he and Cayen have met at least monthly and have discussed his plans moving forward to "turn his life around."

Lynn noted that "following through on it is another matter, but the desire and the will is there."

Regel also called Cayen's mother to speak about her son's upbringing. 

She described her struggles with alcohol throughout Cayen's life, but said she quit drinking shortly after the 2017 offence. 

She said she has learned healthier coping skills since becoming sober that she would be able to pass along to her son. 

Under cross-examination from Praught, she also said she's noticed positive changes in Cayen since he's been in custody. 

Praught told the court that rehabilitation must be a secondary consideration in this case, but that it shouldn't be ignored. 

"There's no reason why he can't continue to work on himself from custody," Praught said. 

Praught also suggested a victim impact surcharge be imposed on Cayen. The financial penalty is collected by the territorial government and is used to fund programs and support services to victims of crime. 

Since many of Norwegian's family members have travelled between Yellowknife and Hay River for over four years' worth of court cases, they have relied on court services for support. 

"It's important to them this charge be imposed," he said.

Regel will present his submissions on sentencing in court Wednesday afternoon. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

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