A 37-year-old man from Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta has been sentenced to seven years for killing a 33-year-old woman he met by chance outside Edmonton City Centre mall nearly four years ago.
Elliott McLeod has been in custody since he was arrested four years ago for the 2020 killing of Sheri Lynn Gauthier.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter last April.
McLeod was in court Wednesday for his sentencing hearing.
Court of King's Bench Justice Larry Ackerl sentenced him to seven years, but with credit for time he has spent in custody since his arrest, McLeod has another 1½ years to serve.
The crime "rises to the highest level of moral culpability," Ackerl said Wednesday.
According to an agreed statement of facts, McLeod had been on a meth binge four days leading up to Feb. 12, 2020.
That night, he met Gauthier by chance at Churchill Square. They walked to the mall parkade nearby, and just before 11:40 p.m., McLeod stabbed Gauthier three times with a serrated knife.
According to the agreement statement of facts, McLeod took a knife from his pocket and stabbed Gauthier in the back.
He then stabbed her twice more, in her left breast and her right thigh.
McLeod left the scene, discarding the weapon, a hat and sweater he was wearing, as shown in images captured on CCTV from the Churchill Station LRT.
Paramedics took Gauthier to the Royal Alexandra Hospital where she died soon after.
'Truly sad personal history'
Ackerl also talked about McLeod's tragic and turbulent upbringing, describing it as a "truly sad personal history."
McLeod grew up in emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, Ackerl said.
He was in 20 foster homes over the years. He had started drinking alcohol at age 10. He began using cocaine at 18 and by 29 was using methamphetamine.
The Crown asked for a sentence of 10 years in prison. The defence asked for 5½ years.
McLeod, sitting in the prisoner's box in an orange jumpsuit, with groomed black hair and a goatee, paid attention to the judge during the sentencing hearing.
"Mr. McLeod is incredibly remorseful," his defence lawyer, Andrew Phypers, told news media outside court Wednesday.
Phypers said he thinks Ackerl handed down a balanced sentence after considering the personal factors, including a Gladue report filed last spring. Gladue reports, used in sentencing decisions, explain an Indigenous person's background to the courts.
"It's a tragic circumstance that they're actually in in the first place — wandering around downtown Edmonton," Phypers told reporters.
"Very tough backgrounds for both the victim and the accused and end up coming together in a very tragic outcome."
Gauthier was a mother of four.
Several members of her family sat quietly in the courtroom and left promptly after the sentencing.
Ackerl called the case a "direct and tragic reminder of the continuing disproportionate violence" against Indigenous women.