Murder trial touches painful nerve in Rankin

Adrien Van Eindhoven pleads not guilty



Adrien Van Eindhoven pleaded not guilty to murder as his trial in Rankin Inlet began Monday this week.

Van Eindhoven, 32, is accused of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Leanne Irkotee.

Irkotee, 22, died in the Rankin Inlet health centre in April 2004 after she was found badly injured in her home. Several days later, police arrested and charged Van Eindhoven with second-degree murder.

Van Eindhoven will be tried by a judge sitting alone. He earlier asked for a jury trial, but later changed his mind.

The trial is expected to take two weeks, with this week preoccupied with the Crown’s case. Crown lawyer Christine Gagnon plans to call more than 20 witnesses, including four forensic specialists, such as a blood splatter expert and a DNA expert.

Extra police officers are working guard duty around the makeshift courtroom in the Siniktarvik Hotel this week, and RCMP who worked in Rankin Inlet at the time of Irkotee’s death, or who flew in with the major crimes unit during the investigation, have returned to give evidence.

All eyes are on the court this week, according to Cpl. Mike Lokken with Rankin Inlet’s RCMP detachment.

“Of course, something like this affects the entire community,” Lokken said. “I think it’s weighing on everyone’s minds.”

“When it does come back to trial, people relive it again.”

The trial especially touches a nerve for Rankin Inlet’s mayor, Lorne Kusugak, who said he isn’t comfortable speaking for the public in this case.

That’s because the last murder trial in Rankin Inlet, in November 2004, involved family. That month a judge sentenced Allen Kabvitok to 14 years in prison for strangling and later mutilating Kusugak’s sister, Donna, in March 2003.

He said he plans to sit through part of this trial too, even with the painful memories it brings back.

“I just went through this hell a couple of years ago,” Kusugak said. “That was my sister.”

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