‘Rot in jail, you coward’: Emotions high as Hala gets life sentence in Emerald MacDonald murder

Friend who nearly died alongside MacDonald describes how incident tore her life apart

A judge in Kugluktuk found Scott Hala guilty of the first-degree murder of actor Emerald MacDonald, seen here while working on the movie, “The Grizzlies.” MacDonald was killed in 2021 while staying at a cabin outside of Kugluktuk. (File photo)

By Jorge Antunes

Emotions were raw and tense in court Friday as the victims’ friends and family verbally confronted Scott Hala, the man convicted of murdering 24-year-old actor Emerald MacDonald and trying to kill her friend in 2021.

“You deserve to burn in hell, there is no justice for what you have done,” the friend’s mother told Hala during the killer’s sentencing in court in Kugluktuk. The Nunavut Court of Justice provided Nunatsiaq News with a link to an audio feed of the trial.

In a four-day trial that started Tuesday in Kugluktuk, Hala was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of MacDonald, an artist and activist who also starred in the movie The Grizzlies.

During the trial, he also pleaded guilty to the sexual assault and attempted murder of MacDonald’s friend, whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

Early on May 1, 2021, Hala shot both MacDonald and her friend before sexually assaulting them. Nearly six months passed before Hala was charged with murder on Oct 15, 2021.

On Friday, Justice Vital Ouellette sentenced Hala to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years for MacDonald’s murder.

A poster calling for justice for Emerald MacDonald was displayed in Kugluktuk six months after her death in May 2021. (File photo)

Hala was sentenced to 19 years for the attempted murder of her friend and an additional six years for her sexual assault. All the sentences are to be served concurrently.

In a victim impact statement read out for her in court, the friend who was attacked alongside MacDonald said that “since that day, I have had very dark, angry thoughts.

“He killed my best friend and tried to kill me.”

She said of Hala, “I was never one who would think about violence or wanting to hurt anyone. He made me this way.”

She added, “My life is forever changed by you killing my best friend, my sister.”

She said at one point she tried suicide and became homeless for months before finding the support she needed.

“After some help and hard work on my mental health, I got a job as a local addictions outreach worker.”

With help from a counsellor, she said, “I am spending more time with my daughter and being a parent, which means so much to me.”

MacDonald’s sister, Stacey Aglok MacDonald, said in her statement that “for the past three years … I have tried to put into words the terrible effects that the murder of my sister has had on our family.”

She recalled “how [MacDonald] loved to dance, how she took care of us, how she was so free and open with her affection, how she was fearlessly herself, how she was the better auntie than of all of our sisters — no contest.”

She described finding a to-do list on her sister’s bedside table after she had been killed: “She wanted to get her driver’s licence; she planned on getting a new passport.”

Aglok MacDonald said her brother-in-law, Randy, had to be carried into the house after he found MacDonald’s body and her friend inside the cabin.

“He couldn’t even stand, let alone walk,” she said.

She wanted the court to hear how she watched her mother and sister “wail, in a way that I have never heard before. Uncontrollable sobbing at all corners of our house became normal.

“[MacDonald] had her whole life ahead of her, she only just turned 24. Her whole life was stolen from her.”

Another sister, Melissa MacDonald, described Emerald MacDonald in her victim impact statement as “so gifted and spirited, so strong, so brave, not afraid of life and not afraid of anyone.

“She took care of us, our mom, our brother, her many nieces and nephews, who she adored.”

Months after MacDonald’s death, she came home, her remains contained in a little box.

“In that box was her ashes, her hair, her skin … her dances, her voice, her laughs, her songs,” Melissa MacDonald said, breaking down crying.

“Her life and all of our lives ended,” she said.

Prior to sentencing Hala, the judge offered him the opportunity to speak. Hala replied with one word: “No.”

It was the only time he spoke in court since pleading not guilty at the start of the trial.

Aglok MacDonald described the shadow of fear and suspicion that descended on the community in the months between the shooting and Hala’s arrest.

Kugluktuk is a small, isolated community, she said, and “we had to live and exist, knowing that whoever did this to her was here with us.

“I’m not sure how to describe the terror of that. Are they in the store here with us right now? Are they here at her funeral?

“I don’t think words could help anyone comprehend what that feels like. It changed us forever. This is the type of terror that lives on in all generations.”

In those six months, she said, “we knocked on doors, we painted flyers, we screamed, we cried, we accused. And Scott Hala saw all of it. Yet he drove past our house and went about his day like nothing happened.”

“To Scott Hala, rot in jail, you … coward,” Aglok MacDonald said.


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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    And now, time for healing, people of Kugluktuk.


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