LETHBRIDGE – The sentencing decision for a 41-year-old man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter early last year has been adjourned, giving the judge time to consider his decision.
Stacey Charles Wahpistikwan admitted to fatally stabbing 36-year-old Silas Kiseyinewakup on the night of Sept. 22, 2015, after a night of drinking near Taber. He said they were involved in a consensual fight, and that Kiseyinewakup pulled a knife, which he managed to gain control of and used to stab the victim.
He entered his guilty plea in January of 2017, but sentencing was delayed multiple times as the court awaited the completion of pre-sentence and Gladue reports. Those were ordered to assess Wahpistikwan’s prospects of rehabilitation and how his Aboriginal background may have impacted his life.
During Wednesday’s, Feb. 14, sentencing hearing, Crown prosecutor Lisa Weich argued for a term of seven-years in prison, while defence lawyer Greg White suggested a range of four-to-five years.
Weich stated that on the night of the offence, Wahpistikwan voluntarily consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication, knowing that alcohol was behind a number of his criminal offences in the past, and knowing that he often had issues with Kiseyinewakup when drinking.
While she said it was commendable that Wahpistikwan was trying to protect his sister, after witnessing Kiseyinewakup assault her earlier in the night, his interventions had never made any difference before for the couple.
“He wanted to get back at Silas for assaulting his sister,” said Weich.
Outlining a number of aggravating factors, she pointed out that Wahpistikwan didn’t seek help for Kiseyinewakup after stabbing him four times – fatally striking his heart and left lung, he hid the murder weapon and his bloody clothes, he dragged the body to a canal, and then lied to his sister when she asked about Kiseyinewakup the next morning. She stated that those actions showed Wahpistikwan knew what he had done and was taking steps to hide it.
As for mitigating factors, Weich acknowledged that there is nothing to indicate Wahpistikwan planned to kill Kiseyinewakup, and that had the victim not pulled a knife himself, a weapon likely would not have been introduced into the fight.
In his response, White told the court that it was “An impulsive act, a heat of the moment act.”
He added that while his client did drag the body away after discovering that Kiseyinewakup was dead, he did so after first trying to get him back to the trailer they were living in. He also said the two were like brothers and that they got along when sober.
Discussing the pre-sentence reports prepared for Wahpistikwan, White explained that his client suffers from brain damage caused by repeated head injuries, which makes it difficult for him to foresee the consequences of his actions, and gives him the verbal abilities of a six-year-old. White added that Wahpistikwan spent parts of his childhood living with different family members, and that alcohol abuse and violence were a part of that upbringing.
“When he’s not using alcohol, he’s a gentle giant,” White told the court. He continued by saying that based on his upbringing, Wahpistikwan didn’t have a choice with his addiction.
Following those submissions, Wahpistikwan delivered a brief statement in court.
“I’d like to apologize to the family, his family,” he said. “I want to say I’m really sorry. What I did, just drunk I guess, [I] didn’t know what I was doing.
“I’m really, really, really sorry for what happened here.”
Having heard from everyone, Judge Derek Redman explained that he would need time to make his decision, adjourning the case to Apr. 12.
It was noted by White that Wahpistikwan has served 601 days in pre-trial custody, most of which has been spent in protective custody, as he is a member of the Cree First Nation, which has led to confrontations with Blackfoot inmates.
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