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Hay River murder trial now in jury’s hands

Levi Cayen is the fourth and final person to stand trial for the 2017 death
According to the Crown’s case, Levi Cayen and his co-accused went to meet Alex Norwegian to rob him. They allegedly locked this gate at Sandy Creek Road — the only point of entry and exit. Photo courtesy of the RCMP

It’s taken over four years to decide who and what led to the death of Alex Norwegian.

Norwegian was found beaten and frozen to death in his vandalized car on the K’atl’odeeche Reserve on Dec. 28, 2017.

On March 9, Crown prosecutor Dwayne Praught and defence lawyer Alan Regel addressed the jury for the final time in Yellowknife’s Supreme Court.

In his closing statement, Praught reiterated the Crown’s version of events surrounding the death of Norwegian, 25.

According to the Crown, Sasha Cayen, Tyler Cayen, and James Thomas were drinking and smoking crack at Thomas’s home. Levi Cayen showed up later with a “Texas mickey” of vodka.

Thomas suggested they rob Norwegian, who had sold crack to Sasha earlier that night.

Under the ruse of buying more crack, Sasha lured Norwegian to meet and “ensure he remained at the portage isolated and alone,” said Praught.

Instead, Thomas and Levi Cayen, Tyler’s cousin, showed up “prepared for violence.” Levi, who’s on trial for first-degree murder in this case, changed into ski pants and a neck warmer, and grabbed a rope and wooden bat for the meet up.

The duo “contemplated, if not anticipated” the nightmare that would unfold, said Praught.

“One does not rob a crack dealer in the middle of the night without anticipating violence,” he said.

Cayen and Thomas took a snowmobile and when they arrived to meet Norwegian, they locked the gate to the portage — the only exit and entrance to Sandy Creek Road.

They tied a rope around Norwegian’s neck, took his phone and jacket and smashed the windows of his car.

The temperature dipped to -32 C with the windchill.

The medical examiner found Norwegian died from hypothermia but the beating left him disoriented.

Then duo carried his bloodied body back to his car, then “watched him drive feebly into the snowbank and left.”

Afterward, they spent hours searching for Norwegian’s stash, which was never found.

“He (Norwegian) was incapable of removing himself from that lethal condition,” said Praught. “And Mr. (Levi) Cayen knew it and made a choice and left.”

SEE: Lead investigator testifies in Hay River murder trial

Cayen was in a “very dark place” when he met up with the crew, according to Praught.

The prosecutor showed the jury again long-winded texts from Cayen to his then-girlfriend where he accused her of cheating and threatened to kill himself.

But ultimately: “It doesn’t matter why, it’s what he did.”

The Crown then countered some mitigating evidence raised by the defence, including the phone call Cayen made to RCMP after the fact to alert them to Norwegian’s location.

“He didn’t give them many details, he hung up quickly,” said Praught.

The Crown said the RCMP treated Cayen fairly in custody, and fed him pizza and water.

“Mr. Cayen was a willing and maybe even an enthusiastic participant in the robbery of Mr. Norwegian,” said Praught.

The robbery was premeditated and the outcome was inevitable, according to the prosecutor.

“There’s no reasonable doubt that Levi Cayen murdered Alex Norwegian,” Praught said.

After a break for lunch, the jury returned to the courtroom to hear the defence’s closing arguments.

Regel, Cayen’s lawyer, explained that the RCMP were well-resourced and had vast power.

“In contrast, all Levi (Cayen) has is me,” said Regel.

He acknowledged Cayen was guilty of robbery — as per his plea — but, “Levi was not involved in a homicide.”

Regel said the RCMP’s Major Crime Unit did not investigate other alternative suspects and did not recognize their own bias.

SEE: ‘Craving for crack’ murder trial details drug hunt in Hay River

Regel described the Crown’s case as “incomplete, imprecise, half-baked, (and) speculative.”

Cayen being suicidal didn’t mean he was homicidal that night, said Regel.

He said the Crown’s case focused heavily on “agreed facts” — like the robbery, which Cayen already plead guilty to.

The defence lawyer poked doubt in the Crown’s evidence, including timelines, glass that was found under Norwegian’s body and the amount of blood from his injuries.

“It might be that nobody knows exactly what happened,” said Regel, but “there is no justice for Alex by simply pinning something on someone if they didn’t do it.”

After the four-week trial, Cayen’s fate is now in the jury’s hands.

Justice Shannon Smallwood was scheduled to give her instructions to the jury on the morning of March 10, and deliberations were expected to start that afternoon.