Woman sentenced for role in fatal Hay River robbery
Warning: Some readers may find the contents of this report disturbing
Sasha Cayen will serve two more years of jail time in the North, avoiding a southern penitentiary, for her role in luring Alex Norwegian to his death in 2017.
Alex’s mother, Wanda Norwegian, sobbed in court as a judge recounted how her son was left badly beaten in a vandalized car, his winter clothing pulled off.
Alex eventually died following the attack in Hay River. On Friday, Cayen was sentenced for her role in his killing.
Wanda Norwegian stood up and left the courtroom as Judge Robert Gorin explained his reasons for rejecting the Crown’s call for Cayen to serve a four-year penitentiary sentence.
Instead, Cayen will serve her manslaughter and robbery sentence – three years and seven months – in the Fort Smith Correctional Complex, as Gorin allowed fully for the time she had spent in custody before her trial.
Cayen, 26, was described in court as “gentle, calm, with a good work history and modest career goals.” Gorin said that was one mitigating factor as he expressed hope she will be able to rehabilitate herself in a setting closer to family, friends, and her Indigenous community. rather than a southern penitentiary.
Gorin also noted Cayen pleaded guilty and testified against one of three co-accused, Levi Cayen, who is set to stand trial in early 2020 on charges of first-degree murder and robbery.
Another co-accused, James George Thomas, has a preliminary inquiry into his first-degree murder and robbery charges set for next month.
The fourth person charged in connection with Norwegian’s death, Tyler Cayen, was sentenced to two years less a day earlier this month for his role as an accessory to manslaughter.
‘Allow her to connect’
By opting for a territorial sentence, Gorin was also able to apply a period of probation to Sasha Cayen.
When released from jail, she will be on three years’ probation and a no-contact order with several people connected to the case.
“She has strong connections to the North, her family and her people,” said Gorin, noting she is originally from the West Point First Nation, or Ts’ueh Nda community, within Hay River.
“Allowing her to serve her sentence in the North will allow her to connect with northerners,” said Gorin.
A two-way video connection in court showed a handful of people watching the proceedings from Hay River.
Sasha Cayen drew Norwegian into an ambush, the court had earlier heard, in which he was beaten by two men, ‘jacked’ of his drugs, and later died of hypothermia with a cracked skull.
Crown prosecutor Jay Potter previously alleged Cayen “played an absolutely integral role” in a scheme to have two masked men rob Norwegian.
“She had his contact information,” said Potter. “To some degree, Alexander Norwegian had trust in Sasha Cayen.”
Some time after 9pm that day, Sasha and Tyler Cayen – and two other people – contacted Norwegian, known as a drug dealer, as some of them wanted to purchase crack cocaine. They had also been drinking.
The group met in a remote location – Sandy Creek Road on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation – made the deal, and left.
A short while later, just after 10pm, Norwegian contacted one of the group to ask for help freeing his stuck black Mazda sedan. When the car was freed, Norwegian provided a piece of crack cocaine in return.
Call to RCMP
Some time later, a plan was allegedly hatched to rob Norwegian.
A further drug purchase would be used as cover.
Two people took balaclavas and a small bat, known as a fish knocker, then headed off on a snowmobile.
Tyler Cayen stayed behind with Sasha, his cousin.
After an hour had passed, the two people returned and stated Norwegian had been “jacked and beaten up,” but was alive.
The bat had been used to smash a window in the car, but had broken.
Evidence was destroyed in a fire, including winter clothing. Sasha did not participate in that, the court heard. One of the group left on a snowmobile to phone police and inform them of Norwegian’s location.
On December 27, 2017, at 4:05am, the RCMP operational command centre received a 36-second call from a pay phone outside the Rooster convenience store in Hay River.
The caller reported an impaired driver driving a smashed-up vehicle turning onto the Sandy Creek Road near the Hay River Reserve.
The caller did not give his name or the name of this driver, nor did the caller provide any further description of the vehicle.
“Unfortunately,” the judge said on Friday, RCMP were not dispatched to Sandy Creek Road in response to this call.
On the morning of December 28, 2017, Norwegian was found dead in his car by a snowplow operator. Temperatures had plummeted down to -33C, factoring in windchill.
He was found without a coat, covered in blood, and slumped over the steering wheel, while the car had extensive damage. Police noticed the vehicle had been driven a short way until it ran into a snowbank.
An autopsy revealed Norwegian had numerous cuts and contusions and his skull was fractured. The cause of death was hypothermia. He also had cocaine in his system.
‘You need to be punished’
Potter has acknowledged Sasha Cayen was not aware that the two men who went to rob Norwegian had weapons. She was also intoxicated by alcohol and crack cocaine.
Norwegian’s family struggled, through sobs, to deliver multiple victim impact statements in the first part of the sentencing hearing one week ago.
“Sasha, you are responsible for the death of my beautiful son … I will never forgive you,” Alex’s mother said through tears.
“You have shattered my heart and soul. You are guilty of my son’s death and you need to be punished and live through the nightmare I’m going through.”
The fact RCMP did not dispatch a cruiser to check out the impaired driving report has troubled the Norwegian family and their friends.
“It’s a burning issue with the family,” a close relative told Cabin Radio after a previous court appearance for another of the accused.