Kugaaruk wife-killer knew what he was doing, Nunavut judge rules
Bruce Kayaitok to be sentenced for second degree murder
Bruce Kayaitok, 36, of Kugaaruk killed his common-law wife with a guilty mind and is therefore guilty of second degree murder, Justice Earl Johnson ruled in a written judgment deposited Aug. 23 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit. (See judgment embedded at the bottom.)
After administering what an autopsy found was a “prolonged and vicious” beating, Kayaitok killed Belinda Tootiak, 30, by stabbing her twice in the lower abdomen with a broken mop handle on June 13, 2008, while their two young sons were in the house.
One of the stab wounds penetrated her body to a depth of about six and two-thirds inches, puncturing a major artery. She bled to death within minutes.
Kayaitok admitted assaulting Tootiak, but his lawyers argued there was not enough evidence to prove he intended to kill her and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter April 29.
Crown prosecutor Paul Bychok, however sought a verdict of second-degree murder, pointing to the nature of Tootiak’s wounds and things that Kayaitok did and said after he attacked her.
That included Kayaitok’s attempts to clean up the bloody mess his attack produced.
Kayaitok also told nurses phony stories to explain what happened, claiming to them, variously, that Tootiak fell on the mop handle or fell in the shower.
After a lengthy analysis of the facts and relevant case law, Johnson agreed with Bychok, saying Kayaitok had “cognitive functioning and purposeful conduct.”
In plain language, this means Kayaitok knew what he was doing when he killed his common-law wife.
“There is a much stronger inference in favour of murder when the indifference of the accused is tied to the attempted clean up and fabricated story he told the nurses and police,” Johnson said.
A sentencing date was set for Sept. 9 in Kugaaruk.
Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with a period of parole ineligibility starting at a minimum of 10 years.
The facts cited in in Johnson’s judgment show that Tootiak’s death was the final act in a escalating cycle of violence, fueled by Kayaitok’s unrelenting sexual jealousy.
Kayaitok had accused Tootiak of seeing another man, and told others about it before he killed her, Johnson said in his judgment.
Onn Sept. 15, 2007, Tootiak fled to the wellness centre in Kugaaruk to escape Kayaitok, who had badly beaten her and had left bite marks on her body.
In statement from Tootiak later taken by two nurses at the health centre, she said Kayaitok threatened to kill her and her children.
Eight months later, in May 2008, the violence worsened.
Tootiak showed up at her sister and brother-in law’s house in “bare feet through the snow on the ground at noon covered in Vim and Mr. Clean.”
That incident occurred because of Kayaitok’s suspicion that Tootiak was seeing another man.
Later that month, Tootiak again sought help at the local wellness centre after suffering a severe beating.
A medical report stated that when “Belinda arrived at the health centre she was distraught, limping, and very badly beaten. She had bit marks and multiple bruising.”
Statements from those close to Tootiak said she was scared of Kayaitok and she thought Kayaitok might accidently kill her during one of his beatings.
Tootiak had been so scared of Kayaitok, she planned to flee Kugaaruk with her two sons.
Tootiak told her mother about the plan, and on June 2, 2008, Tootiak visited the health centre to see if the Nunavut government would pay to fly her to Gjoa Haven.
But only 11 days afterwards, Tootiak lay dead.
In the early morning of June 13, after an argument and another beating, Kayaitok, sober, stabbed Tootiak twice in the abdomen.
One of the wounds cut through a femoral artery, a large blood vessel running into the thigh from the pubic region.
After stabbing her, Kayaitok continued to beat Tootiak with the broom handle, a police blood splatter expert said.
Kayaitok tried to cover up the bloodstains, which flew from the broken mop handle and dripped down the wall, the blood splatter specialist said in his report.
Kayaitok washed down the blood on the floor with towels, a cloth and a wash bucket, and tried to hide the mop handle in seat cushions on the couch.
A medical examiner’s report later described “no fewer than 44 fresh injuries.”
Those injuries did not include a gash over Tootiak’s eye, and it’s not clear if all the injuries found on her body occurred the night she died.
The stories that Kayaitok told at the health centre varied, Johnson said.
At first, he said Tootiak fell in the shower. Then he said she fell on the broom.
Kayaitok told nurses he never touched her, and that the two were “doing good” in their relationship.