Yellowknife residents won’t be tapped to serve in what could have been one of the largest jury pools in NWT history for a murder trial scheduled to begin next April.
Denecho King, 25, changed his election to be tried by a judge and jury in Supreme Court on Monday.
He is charged with the grisly death of 39-year-old John Wifladt who was found badly injured in a Sunridge Place apartment on 51A Avenue in December of 2014.
Wifladt was later pronounced dead at Stanton Territorial Hospital. The resident of the apartment Colin Digness was seriously wounded in the same attack but survived.
Security in the courtroom was tight Monday with two RCMP officers and a court sheriff keeping an eye on King.
He was wearing a blue dress shirt, black slacks and running shoes when he pleaded not guilty to the charges from the prisoner’s box. King had previously pleaded not guilty in Territorial Court before the case was moved to Supreme Court.
The trial is expected to begin April 9 in front of Justice Andrew Mahar.
Crown prosecutor Alex Godfrey said the judge-alone trial will streamline the process.
We were looking at as many as 2,000 potential jurors, probably the largest jury pool in my time in the NWT,” Godfrey said.
“We were in the process of renting space for the process of selecting a jury. It was likely going to take three or four days alone to pick a jury for the trial which could last up to four weeks.”
King’s defense lawyer Jay Bran said it was King’s idea to go with a judge-alone trial after seeking advice from him. Bran added that the challenge of selecting an impartial jury is always a consideration in any jury trial.
“But in Mr. King’s case, the notoriety he has received due to his escape from the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC), may have been a factor in his decision,” Bran said outside court.
King was arrested and jailed on an unrelated charge in February, 2015 and was eventually charged with murder. He was the subject of a four-day manhunt in August of 2016 after he scaled the roof and escaped from NSCC. He was later found by police at his mother’s home, just blocks from NSCC. King received 18 months in custody for the escape. Since his arrest on the murder charge King was also convicted of assault causing bodily harm after an attack on a cab driver in Old Town, just months after Wifladt’s death. He received a 12-month sentence for that conviction.
It has still not been determined whether King is facing a first or second-degree murder charge, said Godfrey outside of court.
Man guilty of impaired driving causing death
A man has pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death in connection with a fatal accident on the Ingraham Trail in May.
Joshua Moore, 29, also pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Monday to impaired driving causing bodily harm in the single-vehicle crash that killed Karen Lafferty, 30, of Yellowknife.
Two passengers, a man and a woman, were also hurt after the vehicle they were in left the road and ended up in a pond near Prosperous Lake, about 20 kilometres east of Yellowknife.
Lafferty, originally from Behchoko, was pronounced dead at Stanton Territorial Hospital. The cause of her death has not been made public.
Emergency crews were notified of the crash by a passerby at about 9:30 a.m. It was not clear how long the car had been in the pond.
Moore, who has been in custody since his arrest, was dressed in a black t-shirt and blue sweat pants for his appearance.
Through his lawyer Ryan Clements, Moore also waived his right to a preliminary hearing. A pre-sentence report was requested and granted by judge Karan Shaner. Moore is to be back in court on Nov. 20 to set a date for sentencing. It is expected at that time a joint position on sentencing will be put forward by the Crown and Clements.
The maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death in Canada is life in prison.
Yellowknife woman pleads guilty to drug charge
A Yellowknife woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, fentanyl and marijuana in Supreme Court on Monday.
Katrina Stiopu, 27, appeared in court in Yellowknife via video from the Fort Smith Correctional Complex.
Her charge dates back to the winter and spring of 2016 when she conspired to traffic in those drugs along with Todd Dube of Yellowknife.
Dube, described as the ringleader of a dial-a-dope operation, received a nine-year sentence last month. Both Dube and Stiopu were arrested as part of the RCMP’s Project Green Manalishi in which several people were arrested and charged
after their phones were tapped. Stiopu is to be back in court in person on Dec. 18 for sentencing.