'We'll always live with pain.'
Anablak sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter
Defying the expectations of Crown and defence lawyers alike, Justice Robert Kilpatrick sentenced Pat Anablak to a total of 15 years in prison for the strangling death in 2004 of his common-law partner, Sylvia Lyall, 41.
"This violence was a denial of everything the relationship was intended to provide," Kilpatrick said Feb. 28 in an oral judgment. "It was a betrayal of love itself."
Anablak, who stared straight ahead as Kilpatrick read his judgment, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter.
Then, the Crown and defence had argued over how much credit Anablak should receive for the 44 months he spent awaiting trial.
Both agreed he should get the normal 15-year sentence. But defence lawyer Andy Mahar argued Anablak should serve another eight years, while prosecutor Brian Bell argued for nine and a half years.
Instead, Anablak, now 54, will spend the next 10 years in prison. Kilpatrick calculated that Anablak should get credit for only 39 months awaiting trial.
Anablak was arrested in June, 2004, but would have served a conditional sentence in jail until that November because he violated conditions imposed on him after previous convictions for assaulting Lyall.
"I think we would have ultimately liked to see him spend life in prison," said Janet Brewster, Lyall's niece. "But 10 years is more than what we understood the Crown was asking [for] so we're pleasantly surprised."
Anablak was convicted three times in 2003 and 2004 for assaulting Lyall and each time received a conditional sentence.
In his judgment, Kilpatrick said Crown prosecutors failed to seek jail time for Anablak, even when he violated court orders. And judges, including himself, failed to throw Anablak in jail when he appeared in their court, Kilpatrick said.
The forgiving Lyall also bore some responsibility too, the judge said, for repeatedly taking Anablak back.
"Sylvia Lyall ultimately paid for this patience and forgiveness with her life," Kilpatrick said, as relatives in the courtroom wept.
But ultimately, Kilpatrick said, the blame rests with Anablak, whose struggles with alcohol turned his relationship with Lyall into something "ugly, demeaning and destructive."
Anablak strangled Lyall in June of 2004. The couple drank together often during the week before her death, and on
June 20, the last day she was seen alive. Anablak stayed in the Lyall's Iqaluit apartment with her body for two days, drinking heavily, before police arrived, acting on a request from Lyall's family. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
In October, Anablak fired his lawyer, Sue Cooper, forcing Kilpatrick to declare a mistrial. February's guilty plea prevented a replay of last fall's trial, when lawyers and expert witnesses discussed the gruesome details of Lyall's death.
Lyall's family, the judge said, will be "tormented by the memory of Sylvia for the rest of their lives."
"The empty chair at every family meeting will always remind them of who is missing and why," Kilpatrick said. "The court is powerless to ease this grief."
Outside court, Brewster said it will be difficult to move on, even with Anablak behind bars for the next decade.
"We'll always live with this pain," she said.