Murder or manslaughter? Nunavut judge to decide this August

Lawyers agree on facts in Kugaaruk homicide, but not verdict

By SAMANTHA DAWSON

Nunavut Justice Earl Johnson will issue a verdict Aug. 23 in the case of Bruce Kayaitok of Kugaaruk, after receiving written submissions from lawyers. (FILE PHOTO)


Nunavut Justice Earl Johnson will issue a verdict Aug. 23 in the case of Bruce Kayaitok of Kugaaruk, after receiving written submissions from lawyers. (FILE PHOTO)

Bruce Kayaitok, a 36-year-old Kugaaruk man, pleaded guilty to manslaughter April 29 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit in connection with the June 2008 death of his common-law spouse.

But Crown prosecutor Paul Bychok said the Crown will still seek a conviction on the second-degree murder charge.

Kayaitok stood up with his lawyer, Malcolm Kempt, before Justice Earl Johnson to give the manslaughter plea.

The Crown and defence have already agreed on a statement of facts, which Bychok read in court, but they do not agree on the verdict.

Johnson will issue a verdict Aug. 23, after receiving written submissions from lawyers.

Kayaitok, who frowned several times during his court appearance, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder after an incident that occurred in the early morning of June 13, 2008.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Kayaitok stabbed his common-law spouse, Belinda Tootiak, 30, twice in the abdomen with the top of a broken mop handle at some point during an argument in their shared Kugaaruk home.

Tootiak and Kayaitok had been together on and off for 14 years, the statement of facts said.

On June 13, 2008, when the argument between Tootiak and Kayaitok took place, their two young sons were present in the home — Bruce Jr., then five, and Dawson, then three.

Kayaitok “admits he unlawfully assaulted the victim during an argument,” Bychok said.

Tootiak died of exsanguination — meaning that she died after an extensive loss of blood, Bychok said.

A number of exhibits are involved in the case — including forensic reports from the Crown, forensic reports from a blood splatter expert, the two pieces of the mop handle, photographs of the scene, Tootiak’s injuries and photos from the Tootiak’s autopsy, which Bychok said were “graphic and quite explicit.”

Johnson agreed to a request from Bychok that the photos be sealed out of respect for Tootiak and her family.

Last September, Kayaitok appeared for a voir dire, a special hearing held to decide if certain evidence should be admitted at a trial.

Johnson will look at lawyers’ arguments on the verdict, to be provided in written submissions, by June 14 and June 28, and will issue a judgment on the verdict Aug. 23.

A conviction on a charge of second degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, with a period of parole ineligibility starting at a minimum of 10 years.

Sentences for manslaughter can range from probation to life in prison.

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