Teen who pleaded guilty in La Loche shootings to be sentenced as an adult

The teen who pleaded guilty in the 2016 shooting spree that left four people dead and seven wounded in La Loche, Sask., will be sentenced as an adult, a provincial court judge decided Friday.

Teen killed 4, wounded 7 in January 2016 shooting in northern Saskatchewan

Bullet holes are seen in the front door of the La Loche Community School in Saskatchewan on Jan. 25, 2016, three days after a shooting spree at the school and a home that left four people dead and seven injured. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The teen who pleaded guilty in the 2016 shooting spree in La Loche, Sask., will be sentenced as an adult, a provincial court judge decided Friday.

People inside the courtroom began applauding as the decision was read by Judge Janet McIvor.

"I think it's the right decision," said La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre. "That's the sentence that I was hoping for, and most of the community was, because of the nature of the incident."

The then-17-year-old defendant went on a rampage that left four people dead and seven others wounded in the remote community northwest of Saskatoon.

McIvor called the crime heinous, and said the impact in La Loche has been profound.

"I hope that the community can have closure at this point," said Crown prosecutor Pouria Tabrizi-Reardigan. 

One survivor's struggle

Phillip Elliot said life is now a daily battle for his grandson Noah. The football player was hit with shotgun pellets in the chest during the attack and survived, but now barely goes to school.

"Noah has been really struggling ever since it happened," he said. "It's a constant nightmare for him, what he's dealing with. His dreams have been taken away and destroyed."

The family has moved away from the northern community in order to gain better access for treatment and therapy for the teenager.

Phillip Elliott says his grandson has been living in a constant nightmare since the attack. (Don Somers/CBC News)

"He's fighting," said Elliot. "He's doing what he needs to do to get back into a normal routine of life."

Elliot said he was pleased with the judge's decision.

"The judge turned around and made the right decision in my mind," he said. "He won't be free to walk the streets."

Teen disappointed

Judge McIvor said the facts of the case, including evidence the accused planned the shootings, meant a youth sentence would not be appropriate.

A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic penalty of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. However, due to the teen's age at the time of the crime, he would be eligible for parole in 10 years, according to his lawyer.

Defence lawyer Darren Kraushaar said his client accepts the decision.

"Obviously he's disappointed and his family is disappointed," sai Kraushaar. "But he was prepared for this as a possibility, certainly."

Kraushaar said it was too early to know if an appeal of the sentence will be launched.

A publication ban on the teen's identity will be in place until his next court appearance, on March 16.

Crown prosecutors said the shooting was premeditated, that the teen was clear-minded and understood the consequences of his actions. They say he should be sentenced as an adult. 

The defence argued the shooter suffers from a host of mental disorders and didn't fully understand what he was doing and therefore should be sentenced as a youth. 

The teen was just weeks from his 18th birthday when on Jan. 22, 2016, he shot brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine at their home in La Loche. 

Marie Janvier, 21, Adam Wood, 35, Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, clockwise from top left, were killed Jan. 22, 2016, by the teenager, who admitted to the shootings in La Loche. (Submitted to CBC/Facebook)

He then drove to the town's high school and opened fire, where he fatally shot teacher Adam Wood and teaching assistant Marie Janvier.

He pleaded guilty in October 2016 in Meadow Lake provincial court to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.

Defence lawyer Aaron Fox speaks to media in Meadow Lake, Sask., on May 16 after the first day of the sentencing proceeding for the teen. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Survivors speak of trauma

The night before the teenager went on the shooting spree, he used his iPad to search "what does it feel like to kill someone." 

Less than 24 hours later, he carried out the mass shooting that rocked the small northern town and reverberated across the country. 

During his sentencing hearing, which was spread over three weeks last year, court heard many of his survivors have experienced severe trauma, both physical and mental, since the shooting. 

The teen has been in custody since his arrest — spending the majority of his time at Kilburn Hall, a youth custody facility in Saskatoon.

Jackie Javier, mother of Marie Janvier, wipes away tears while leaving court in Meadow Lake on May 17 after giving a victim impact statement during the sentencing proceeding for the teen shooter, who killed four people, including her daughter. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Crown's case for adult sentence

Before Friday's decision, Crown prosecutors said the youth deserved to serve an adult sentence because the "scale of devastation" he wrought "is of such high magnitude."

"A youth sentence would not be sufficient length to hold the young person accountable," Crown prosecutor Pouria Tabrizi-Reardigan said during final arguments last October. 

The Crown argued the teen had a moral compass and compassion for his family and friends. but that his moral compass did not include strangers, community members and people at the school. 

The Crown also had a psychologist and a psychiatrist testify that the teen didn't suffer from any psychosis and that aside from abusing marijuana, he did not suffer any serious mental disorders.

Defence case for youth sentence

The defence had argued the exact opposite and was pushing for him to be sentenced as a youth.

The defence's experts, also a psychologist and a psychiatrist, said the teen suffered from a host of mental disorders and has a diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. 

Defence lawyer Aaron Fox said the youth has expressed remorse for his crimes and cries himself to sleep at night.

The defence maintained the teen was a victim of bullying at the La Loche Community School, particularly because of the large size of his ears.

A psychiatrist who testified at the sentencing hearing said the teen didn't have the "moral fibre" that would prevent others from carrying out such a horrific attack.

Dr. Mansfield Mela, a witness for the defence in the case, said the teen suffered from a host of psychiatric disorders, including an intellectual deficit disorder, a conduct disorder and a major depressive disorder.

He told the court those disorders, combined with the shooter's seeming obsession with school shooting videos and violent video games, were contributing factors in his decision to kill.

CBC reporter Charles Hamilton was in La Loche reporting on today's decision. You can follow his tweets below. On mobile? Click here.


Charles Hamilton is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.