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Man gets five years for drunken killing
Pleads guilty to manslaughter for beating man to death in hotel room

Kira Curtis and Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 10, 2011

INUVIK - An Inuvik man has been sentenced to five years in prison for drunkenly beating another man to death.

NNSL photo/graphic

The late Susie Lucas holds the program from her son Angus Kikoak's funeral in January 2010. Lucas died suddenly in November 2010. Kikoak's killer was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter Feb. 7. - NNSL file photo

Claude Jerome Harry, 39, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the December 2009 killing of 45-year-old Angus Kikoak in NWT Supreme Court in Inuvik Feb. 7.

Though initially charged with second-degree murder, Harry reached a plea bargain with the Crown to be sentenced on the lesser offence of manslaughter, as both the defence and Crown prosecutor agreed Harry was remorseful for his admittedly unprovoked attack on Kikoak.

Manslaughter carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison. As part of the plea bargain, the Crown and defence sought a four- to six-year prison term. Harry was allowed double credit for the time spent in custody since his arrest Dec. 19, 2009, and will serve about three more years.

Wearing a casual black and grey long-sleeved shirt, navy sweatpants and sneakers, Harry kept his head bowed as the courtroom heard what happened on Dec. 17, 2009.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Kikoak had rented a room at the Eskimo Inn, where a handful of acquaintances, including Harry, joined him that night for drinks.

They drank heavily as the evening wore on and Harry started to become violent to others present - one of whom called police to have him removed from the hotel, but RCMP didn't respond to the call. By 11 p.m. all Kikoak's guests had left the hotel except for Harry and one other man - the only witness to the brutal beating that took Kikoak's life.

Kikoak got up to close the curtains, the court heard, when suddenly Harry was upon him, punching him in the face until he collapsed. The other man tried to get Harry to stop, but Harry began choking him until he broke free and fled, leaving Kikoak unconscious.

The next day the hotel manager noticed that Kikoak had not checked out and went to his room, finding Kikoak's body on the floor.

An autopsy later revealed Kikoak died from severe injuries to the head and torso which caused internal bleeding.

"A drunken attack led to the unfortunate death of Mr. Kikoak," defence lawyer Steven Fix told the court, adding Harry's memory of that night is "almost non-existent."

Harry, who has a lengthy criminal record including 19 prior convictions for assault, didn't want to speak to the court directly. His lawyer said Harry "wishes to apologize for the pain he's caused the Kikoak family."

Judge Rene Foisy said in this case it would be nearly impossible to prove the intent to kill required for a longer prison term.

"There is no denying that this vicious beating, this senseless death, was not called for and was not provoked," the judge said, adding it's unfortunate that alcohol-related crimes like this happen all too often and a prison term, no matter how long, will never be able to replace the life that was taken away.

Foisy added the victim impact statements from Kikoak's brothers and sisters were some of the "most well thought-out" he'd heard in his 30-plus years as a judge.

Harry must submit to a DNA order and will be banned from owning a firearm for the rest of his life.

Family members passed around a box of tissues, wiping tears from their faces as Crown prosecutor Glen Boyd read the statements aloud.

Kikoak's brother Steven Jr., whom Kikoak had been staying with in Inuvik before he died, has since moved to Ontario to get away from "too many memories." In his written statement, he tried to describe what it felt like to lose a brother so close "he was like a twin."

"I lost my best friend, my role model, my hunting partner and most of all, my brother," Steven Kikoak wrote, adding Angus' death

"put a dark cloud over me and my family."

He mourned as well the death of their mother, 72-year-old Susie Lucas, who died suddenly in November 2010, just weeks after the Crown and defence teams reached the plea bargain.

To Harry, Steven wrote, "Had you not done what you did, they both would be here today ... I can never forgive you. You've done nothing to show that I should."

Kikoak's family thanked Boyd after the hearing, but told reporters they were too emotional to comment.

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