Almost two years to the day that Joseph Gauthier was stabbed to death in the middle of the road, family members stood up in court to express the devastating effects his loss has had on them.
Daniel Forrest Creagh, a big man with a short mohawk and a thin chin strap beard, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power told the courts, prior to the proceedings, that any emotional outbursts would not be tolerated and those in the court were not allowed to touch their phones.
An agreed statement of facts was read out loud by Crown prosecutor Jeni Gillings after the proceedings were delayed for almost an hour as a couple dozen people were herded through a metal detector. Some family members wore hats, embroidered with Gauthier’s name, birth year and year of death.
The packed courtroom heard how after a night of partying a group of people ended up at a small house in the 1400-block of Hillside Avenue – the residence of a mutual friend. Gauthier and Creagh knew each other, but “weren’t really friends,” and no one was aware of issues between the two prior to that night.
The group of four friends ended up in a bedroom of the home after the landlord asked them to leave the living room when she saw cocaine on the table.
|Joseph Gauthier, a father of two, was killed March 10 after a party. Daniel Forrest Creagh pleaded guilty to manslaughter in his death. (Courtesy of Jessica Moraes)|
Inside the bedroom, a friend noted tension between Creagh and Gauthier — stating “they want[ed] to scrap each other kind of.” The friends moved back into the living room, where they began consuming more alcohol and cocaine. At some point, Creagh and Gauthier went into a bathroom together. When they emerged five to 20 minutes later, Gauthier told his girlfriend the two men had had a “heart to heart” conversation.
A little while later, Gauthier went into the bathroom with another friend who told him that Creagh had said Gauthier had backed down from a fight.
Tensions in the house began to escalate, and a verbal altercation between Gauthier and Creagh turned physical as Gauthier punched Creagh in the face several times – to the point of needing intervention.
A short cell phone video was shown in court, taken by Gauthier’s girlfriend moments before the stabbing. It shows Gauthier and Creagh both shirtless and arguing. A number of people seated in court left the room as the video was played.
At some point after the fight inside the house, Creagh grabbed a knife from the kitchen.
Outside the home, the scene was “somewhat chaotic” with people yelling and jumping around. Gauthier and Creagh moved towards the centre of Hillside Avenue.
“Danny made three of four forward striking motions with his right arm towards Joe’s upper body. Joe immediately fell to the ground and then Danny kicked him in the head,” read Gillings, to gasps from the courtroom.
When police arrived on scene, Gauthier was laying on the road with his head in his girlfriend’s lap. Police and paramedics could not find a pulse and he was not breathing. “Despite medical intervention, he was unable to be resuscitated.”
The stab wound that killed Gauthier was 10 cm deep and punctured the ascending aorta of his heart.
The first victim impact statement read in court was from Gauthier’s 14-year-old son and read by his mother. The courts heard of the son’s pain, of having to play his first high school sports game without his dad on the sideline, of having to pick up his dad’s coffin, of helping his mother plan a celebration of life and of holding his father’s ashes.
Through the 12 victim impact statements, the courts heard how Gauthier could make anyone smile and how his laugh was so contagious you couldn’t help but join in.
Darlene Hogue, Gauthier’s mother who he had been living with at the time of his death, took a few moments to steady herself before reading her statement in a slow even tone.
“I used to be funny and happy … I really miss me,” she said. “I know Joe was no angel, but he didn’t deserve to be taken like this.”
After friends and family had a chance to be heard, crown counsel asked for an eight-year sentence for Creagh, with Gillings submitting that Creagh’s actions were much closer to “near murder than to near accident” — the spectrum of which she said manslaughter sentences can be assessed.
In her submission, Gillings dove into case law before submitting a series of aggravating factors for consideration in Power’s sentencing decision.
Included in those factors was the use of a knife as a weapon, the level of violence involved, the injuries Gauthier sustained and the fact he had no weapon and was backing away from Creagh when the stabbing occurred.
Gillings also spoke of Creagh’s ”gratuitous violence” in kicking Gauthier after he had fallen to the ground.
“He fled the scene and did not seek medical assistance,” she said. “He stabbed him, he kicked him, he stood over him and then he fled.”
Defence attorney Jordan Watt will present his sentencing submissions to court March 11.
— With files from Nina Grossman