Alecus Quitte was sentenced Sept. 8 to six-and-a-half years in prison after a stabbing in Behchoko that left Archie Wedzin dead.
On April 7 2019, Quitte and his spouse were at Wedzin’s residence in Behchoko drinking vodka and smoking crack cocaine, according to an agreed statement of facts.
After a disagreement broke out between Quitte and Wedzin, Quitte was asked to leave and did. He came back a short while later and was allowed back in.
When another argument arose, Quitte pulled out a knife and stabbed Wedzin twice, once around his collar bone and another time beneath his jaw. A forensic pathologist found that the gash around Wedzin’s jaw was the fatal wound as the downward slant of the knife severed Wedzin’s jugular.
Quitte and his spouse initially told the police that they had been at Wedzin’s residence on the night of the attack but left in the early hours of April 8 and only later learned of Wedzin’s death.
On May 9, Quitte’s spouse made a second statement to the police telling them that Quitte had been responsible for the stabbing. He was arrested on May 14 and admitted that he had stabbed Wedzin but had no intention of killing him.
Always opened his door
At the time of sentencing, several of both Wedzin and Quitte’s family members were at the NWT Supreme Court.
Many sobbed through the proceedings.
In her victim impact statement, Nora Wedzin, sister to the deceased, told the court that since her brother’s death, her “life has changed a lot.”
She said she now gets angry for no reason, often has no appetite, can’t get out of bed, and is “exhausted from crying with pain in (her) heart.”
“I always thought I was safe living in Behchoko,” she said. “Since my brother Archie’s life was taken from him, I don’t trust anybody.”
Still, she said her brother would want her to try to forgive.
“I don’t want to carry the hurt around. That’s why I want to forgive you,” she said to Quitte.
Wedzin, 59 when he died, was a father and a grandfather.
His daughter Glenda Apples also read her victim impact statement.
She said that her father was someone who always “took people in when they were in need.”
Apples told the court that she has a video of her father laughing.
“On days that I can’t take the loneliness, I listen and have a good cry,” she said.
Defence lawyer Jay Bran told the court that Quitte takes absolute responsibility for his actions. He said the only reason Quitte didn’t come forward sooner was because “he was scared of what would happen to him and scared of what he had done.”
Bran said Quitte told him that Wedzin was a good friend who had always opened his door to him.
Quitte, 23, is of Tlicho heritage. A pre-sentence report indicated that, though he was not raised by his biological parents as his mother was very young at the time of his birth, he grew up in a “loving home.”
When he was 12, Quitte started stealing alcohol from his family and “experimenting” with drinking. At 13, he began using marijuana and started using crack cocaine at 21.
The offender has a five-year-old son who he said he plans on taking into his care once he’s released.
“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart for the pain that I’ve caused,” he said. “Whatever sentence you give me, I’m ready to take my punishment.”
Closer to near murder than near accident
Manslaughter is a homicide committed without the intention to cause death.
Crown prosecutor Alex Godfrey said sentencing for manslaughter is difficult, as offences range from near accidents to near murder. Both Crown and defence lawyers agreed that the use of a knife and stabbing the victim’s neck puts this case closer to near murder.
In an unusual proceeding, the victim’s mother asked to speak prior to sentencing.
Through an interpreter, Julie Wedzin said that, “Whatever happens, I pray for that individual and love that individual… whatever happens, I still love each and everyone.”
Quitte’s mother then also asked to say a few words.
She expressed concern over her son’s safety in a southern penitentiary and told the judge, “I just want you guys to look after my boy.”
While the location of Quitte’s incarceration is beyond Justice Louise Charbonneau’s control, she said she understands his family’s concerns and will recommend he serve in a Northern facility.
With the credit Quitte earned from his time already in custody, he has just over four-and-a-half years remaining in his sentence.
“Mr. Wedzin is very much missed by many people,” Charbonneau said in delivering her sentence. “That will be the case probably for as long as those people live.”
To Quitte she said, “I believe you completely when you say you’re sorry.”
She told him that he cannot undo what he has done but he can be true to what he told the court when he said he “wants to live a healthy and sober life.”
“You must be true to those words, otherwise they are just words,” the judge said.