Sgt Chris Manseau holds an image of Thadeus McNeely at a September 22, 2022 news conference. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
A Northwest Territories supreme court justice has sentenced Thaddeus McNeely to nine years in prison for a fatal stabbing in 2022.
McNeely was sentenced in Fort Good Hope on Friday, nearly one year after he stabbed three people at a residence in the community on the evening of his 24th birthday. One woman was killed while two other people sustained serious injuries from the attack on September 20, 2022.
Following the stabbings, McNeely spent two days at large in Fort Good Hope before he handed himself in to police. RCMP said at the time he was arrested at a home “without any incident.”
The weapon used in the attack has not been recovered.
According to an agreed statement of facts filed in the case, McNeely was socializing and drinking with people at a residence on the night of September 20, 2022, when he armed himself with a knife and stabbed two women. A man in the home left a bedroom when he heard the commotion and was stabbed multiple times during a struggle with McNeely.
The three people who were attacked, Samantha Kelly, Skylynn Cook and Leslie Drybones, left the home and collapsed outside. They were brought to the health centre in Fort Good Hope where Kelly passed away. Drybones and Cook were flown to Yellowknife for medical treatment.
Impact statements from Kelly’s family members describe her as a beautiful, smart and beloved daughter, aunt and friend who made others laugh.
“At the beginning it was the hardest. It’s still hard for me to believe,” Gloria Kelly wrote, adding she has felt angry since her daughter’s death.
“When I’m looking for something around the house, I go to the bedroom, living room, kitchen and then I look up and I see her picture and I start crying because it’s her I’m looking for.”
A statement from Drybones said he has experienced anxiety, muscle loss in his shoulder, flashbacks, and physical challenges that he said has made it harder for him to provide for his family since he was attacked.
“Now I’m scared of knives. When I see a knife out, I worry someone might get hurt,” he wrote.
“I’m a different person when it comes to trusting people now.”
Other community members expressed feeling afraid in Fort Good Hope since the stabbings.
The reason for the attack is unknown.
During an interview for a pre-sentencing report, McNeely said he has no memory of committing the offences but wanted to take accountability. He said the night of the attack he smoked weed and consumed alcohol, and that when he uses the substances together he becomes aggressive. He said he also had an argument with Cook, who he was dating at the time, earlier that day.
McNeely said his entire criminal record is related to alcohol. He said he learned from the substance abuse and family violence he was exposed to growing up. The pre-sentence report noted it was difficult to corroborate personal information provided by McNeely due to the lack of interviews with his family members.
McNeely said he felt sad about Kelly’s death stating: “[I] wish I could give my life to give hers back.”
McNeely was initially charged with second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, alongside the aggravated assault charges, in April.
Justice Louise Charbonneau sentenced McNeely to nine years for manslaughter alongside two and a half years for each aggravated assault charge, to be served concurrently. With credit for time served in pre-trial custody, McNeely has seven years and nine months left to serve.
The pre-sentencing report states McNeely said he is willing to take any programs offered to him while incarcerated and he has already completed a program on living without violence. He said he wants to be a better role model to his daughter and plans to move to Calgary once he is released.
Correction: August 1, 2023 – 10:57 MT. The caption has been updated to correct the length of McNeely’s sentence as stated in the article and headline. The caption previously stated Thaddeus McNeely was sentenced to nine months for manslaughter. In fact, he was sentenced to nine years.