Chad Beck was convicted of second degree murder Tuesday for killing Cameron Sayine on Canada Day, 2018 in Fort Resolution.
Justice Shannon Smallwood rendered her decision on May 25, after a 10-day bench trial. Beck pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, but his plea was rejected by the Crown who insisted that when Beck struck Sayine with an axe, he meant to kill him.
The trial, where nine witnesses including Beck testified, began in October 2020 and resumed in February 2021.
Smallwood repeated what the court heard in trial, when drinking, Sayine was “aggressive,” “rowdy” and “agitating.”
In the events leading to his killing on Canada Day 2018, Smallwood said “he was acting in character.”
Beck testified that Sayine often became aggressive with him out-of-nowhere. That day, he said, Sayine had assaulted him, without provocation, three times. The attacks from that day alone left him with a black eye, a cut to his eyebrow, a chipped tooth and a sore back from being thrown onto rocks.
The third time, the two were drinking with Jason Laroque, Beck’s cousin, in Laroque’s parents’ house. Beck said Sayine backhanded him and chipped his tooth causing Beck to run out of the house toward a neighbour’s house to call the police. Instead, he picked up an axe he saw along the path and returned to the house.
He testified that he meant to scare Sayine with the axe but when he walked back in to find Sayine and Laroque fighting he panicked, the court heard.
Smallwood noted there was no other evidence indicating that a fight had broken out between Sayine and Laroque.
Laroque testified that Beck walked back into the house, came around the corner and struck Sayine first in the back of the head and then several more times once he fell to the ground.
Beck then told Laroque that Sayine “wouldn’t mess with our family anymore,” and dragged his body into the bush.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte argued that Beck was both provoked – a defence that lessens a murder charge to manslaughter when proven – and too intoxicated to understand the consequences of his actions.
Harte told the court Beck was tired of being Sayine’s victim and though he was prepared to accept it for himself, was triggered by the thought that Sayine may be trying to attack his cousin.
Recalling his interactions with Beck that night, the constable who arrived at the Fort Resolution house testified during trial that Beck was able to answer his questions without slurring his speech, walk without staggering and strip down in the holding cell without difficulty.
Based on the number of accounts of the beer and vodka Beck drank that day and in days prior, Smallwood said “there’s no doubt that Beck was intoxicated to some degree.”
She noted, however, that Beck was able to drag Sayine’s 94 kg body, 20 kg heavier than his own body weight, out the door and 30 meters from the house. She noted, too, that Beck did not hit anything in the living room when swinging the axe, saying, “He hit his target.”
Smallwood also rejected the defence of provocation stating that while Sayine’s actions could cause the average person to lose control – one of the requirements of provocation – that is not why Beck killed him. His actions and words prove his intention to see Sayine dead, Smallwood said.
“Considering the history, it would be difficult to not feel sympathy for those involved,” Smallwood said then added, “decisions must be based on evidence and not on sympathy or prejudice.”
Before scheduling Beck’s sentencing hearing the court will decide whether sentencing will take place in Yellowknife or in Fort Resolution.
The Supreme Court of the NWT will resume in the afternoon on May 28 to schedule sentencing.