A provincial court judge will decide today if the teen who pleaded guilty in the 2016 shooting spree in La Loche, Sask., will be sentenced as a youth or an adult.
More than two years after the La Loche teen went on a rampage that left four people dead and seven others wounded in the remote community northwest of Saskatoon, two different portraits of him have emerged.
Crown prosecutors say 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 argues 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 shooter, who cannot be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was just weeks from his 18th birthday when on Jan. 22, 2016, he shot two brothers — Dayne and Drayden Fontaine — at their home in La Loche.
He then drove to the town’s high school and opened fire, where he fatally shot two teachers — Adam Wood and Marie Janvier — and wounded seven others.
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.
The question now for Judge Janet McIvor is which version of the young man, who is now 20, she will accept. Should he be sentenced as a youth as his lawyer argues or as an adult, as the Crown suggests.
Sentencing is scheduled to take place in provincial court in La Loche at 10 a.m. CST.
Youth or adult sentence?
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.
Crown’s case for adult sentence
Crown prosecutors say the teenage shooter deserves 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 did have a moral compass, had 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 has argued the exact opposite and says he should be sentenced as a youth.
The defence’s own experts, also a psychologist and a psychiatrist, say the teen suffered from a host of mental disorders and has a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Defence lawyer Aaron Fox said the shooter has expressed remorse for his crimes and cries himself to sleep at night.
The defence maintains 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 doesn’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.
The onus is on the Crown to convince the judge that an adult sentence is necessary.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act says a youth has a diminished level of moral blameworthiness, and that sentencing should focus on rehabilitation and reintegration.
An adult sentence would mean the teen would face a life sentence without eligibility for parole for 10 years.
According to the teen’s defence lawyer, if he is sentenced as a youth he would likely face a 10-year sentence.
Another major difference is where that sentence will be served. If he is sentenced as a youth, his time would be served in a youth correctional facility. An adult sentence would be served in a federal prison.