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'You can't bring my brother back'
Sister of Archie Paulette angered over five-year sentence for 2015 manslaughter

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Susan Chaffee is furious at what she calls the "light" sentence given to the woman who killed her brother Archie Paulette.

NNSL photo/graphic

Raw emotion boils over as an angry Susan Chaffee talks to Yellowknifer outside the courthouse on Monday. Chaffee was furious with the sentence handed to Beverly Villeneuve for killing her brother Archie Paulette in Ndilo in 2015. Villeneuve received five years in jail after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Chaffee said Villeneuve should have received a longer sentence. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

An emotional Chaffee spoke to Yellowknifer outside the courthouse just minutes after Beverly Villeneuve, 48, was sentenced to five years for manslaughter.

Villeneuve pleaded guilty in the stabbing death of Paulette, her common-law partner, in Ndilo on June 8, 2015. The 67-year-old man was found in a residence at 122 Sikyea Tili suffering from a single stab wound.

Chaffee said the sentence, which calls for two years and eight months in custody after Villeneuve's 590 days of pre-trial incarceration, amounts to a slap on the wrist.

"We knew she wasn't going to get a very long sentence after what she did to my brother. (The Crown attorney) had already told us what she was going to get, but I didn't believe it," Chaffee said.

"You can't bring my brother back. It's really light. I thought she would do about nine years. I'm really angry because I got no other family. I'm all alone. I don't have any brothers and sisters. She took the only one that I had left."

In her victim impact statement in the court last month, Chaffee said she has no sympathy for Villeneuve, who she wanted convicted of murder and a much longer sentence. Chaffee said she had warned both her brother and Villeneuve if they continued to drink together and fight, one of them was going to end up dead.

"I told them that they had to stop drinking or else one of them was going to end up six feet under and the other was going to jail," Chaffee said.

"I told them to go get help. We all go through problems. I went through a lot of problems but you don't see me running around and killing someone just because I have a lot of problems."

At the time of Paulette's death, Villeneuve was out on bail and under a court order to not have contact with him because of another stabbing incident that happened in December of 2014.

In sentencing Villeneuve, Supreme Court Judge Louise Charbonneau said the couple's time together was tumultuous, their relationship marred with constant drinking and fighting.

In accepting the Crown and defence joint submission for a sentence of five years, Charbonneau called it a tragic case of alcohol and domestic violence, problems much too commonplace and accepted in the NWT.

She said she took into consideration the trauma Villeneuve has suffered throughout her lifetime, including her childhood in Fort Resolution where she hid under furniture from her alcoholic, violent parents.

Although eventually adopted, Charbonneau said Villeneuve was unable to avoid the alcoholism and violence that plagued her youth, and started drinking at age 13.

Villeneuve has testified she does not remember killing Paulette because she was intoxicated and Charbonneau credited her for taking full responsibility for his death.

"She has a long road ahead of her but she is not without hope," Charbonneau said. She also agreed to let Villeneuve serve her time her in the North so that she can use family and friends for support. Villeneuve is expected to serve out the remainder of her sentence at the Fort Smith Correctional Complex.

Speaking to her sentence, Villeneuve's lawyer, Peter Harte, said the judge is required to accept the joint submission if it is deemed reasonable under the circumstances.

"We're becoming aware to a greater extent that trauma, particularly in Northern communities, makes an enormous difference to people's lives and their ability to deal with stress," Harte said. "Children who experience events like Ms. Villeneuve's early years, when they are hiding under beds while fights are going on, those kinds of events create trauma. Those people have problems dealing with stressful incidents in their lives. Those incidents make it very difficult for her to deal with the problems they have in life other than with drugs and alcohol."

Sandy MacCauley was in court to support her long-time friend Villeneuve. She said the relationship between Villeneuve and Paulette was toxic.

"I never thought this would happen. I'm supporting her in all ways. She's a good friend of mine. She's still going through hard times and I've been there. I've been homeless and we all keep in touch," MacCauley said. "What she did was the wrong thing. Things happen and she's learning from her mistakes. She'll come back to us and we'll be happy to see her."

Villeneuve was ordered by the judge to supply a sample of her DNA. She is also prohibited from owning or possessing firearms for life.

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