Father of girls who froze to death gets 3 years in prison

A Saskatchewan man whose young daughters died when he drunkenly took them into a snowstorm has been sentenced to three years in prison.

A Saskatchewan man whose two young daughters froze to death when he took them into a snowstorm while he was drunk has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Christopher Pauchay pleaded guilty to one count of criminal negligence causing the deaths of Kaydance, 3, and Santana, 15 months, on the Yellow Quill First Nation, about 230 kilometres east of Saskatoon in January 2008.

Pauchay, 25, was drunk when he took his two girls outside in blizzard-like conditions. The girls, who weren't dressed for cold weather, were later found dead of hypothermia.

Prior to sentencing, Saskatchewan Provincial Court Judge Barry Morgan heard recommendations from an aboriginal sentencing circle.

While Morgan was not bound by those recommendations, the circle suggested Pauchay should not go to prison but should be reunited with his wife, Tracey Jimmy, and their other child.

The group also recommended Pauchay receive drug and alcohol treatment, and assist elders with cultural and spiritual activities.

Pauchay's wife made a passionate plea for the judge not to send her husband to jail.

Crown prosecutor Marylynne Beaton had argued Pauchay should serve a sentence of 2½ to five years in prison. The defence said the judge should consider a non-jail conditional sentence.

In passing sentence Friday, the judge said Pauchay lacked insight into his behaviour and wasn't willing to accept responsibility for what happened.

The case has cast light on social problems and substance abuse on Yellow Quill First Nation.

Pauchay will receive credit for time served in custody, the judge said. Pauchay was re-arrested last month for twice breaching bail conditions that prohibited him from using alcohol.

It was on Jan. 29, 2008, that an intoxicated Pauchay left his home some time after 12:30 a.m. with his two daughters, who were dressed only in T-shirts and diapers. Temperatures felt like — 50 C with the wind chill factor.

Pauchay was later found on a neighbour's doorstep around 5 a.m., suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.

Eight hours later, it was disclosed that the girls had been with him.

The frozen body of Santana was found that day, roughly 100 metres from the family’s home, and the next day, Kaydance's body was found by a search and rescue team.

Autopsies showed both girls died from hypothermia.

The prosecutor reminded the judge earlier this week that Pauchay told the sentencing circle he shouldn't have been charged with a crime because the incident was accidental.

But there was evidence Pauchay rejected help from a brother-in-law who offered to take the girls after realizing their father was drunk that night.

Pauchay had 52 prior convictions, most of them for failing to comply with court orders.

His defence lawyer, Ron Piche, said Pauchay was relieved he did not receive a harsher sentence.

Piche said there are no immediate plans for appeal.