Bishop said she and her son were close and spoke on the phone several times a day. She added that she could not mention his name without crying.
“I have no life any more, no happiness, no laughing. Just pain and sadness,” she said.
Bishop said there was no justice as McNeely “gets to live the rest of his life and my son does not.”
Ryan’s sister, Shauna, said her only sibling was a “world traveller, adventurous, outgoing, kind and compassionate.” She said his death at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic made things more challenging.
In a victim impact statement, she added that his death had affected her ability to trust others and feel safe, and she no longer encourages loved ones to explore the world out of fear.
According to an agreed statement of facts in the case, on the afternoon of April 27, 2020, Ryan and McNeely were fighting in an apartment at Yellowknife’s Grayling Manor when McNeely’s brother told them to take it outside. After doing so, only McNeely returned.
McNeely’s brother found Ryan unconscious in the stairwell and carried him to a bed in the apartment. Ryan was later found not breathing and an ambulance was called. Paramedics contacted police.
An autopsy concluded Ryan’s death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head. He suffered multiple blunt force injuries to his head, face and neck, haemorrhages inside and outside his skull, brain swelling, and injury to his brain fibres.
In a pre-sentencing report, McNeely blamed Ryan for picking a fight with him and said he remembered hitting Ryan and rendering him unconscious.
“He attacked me and I defended myself,” McNeely said. “Usually, when I knock someone out, they get back up. I feel bad he died. I was shocked. I didn’t think one hit could kill someone. There’s nothing else I can do but move on.”
McNeely said alcohol and crack cocaine were factors in the assault as he had been using both excessively for several days prior. He said, however, his actions likely would not have changed had he been sober.
McNeely apologized and expressed remorse for Ryan’s death.
The pre-sentencing report notes “his insight into his offending behaviours is lacking.”
“I’m really sorry for what happened,” he said. “I feel remorse, but there is nothing I can do. It was just bad luck.”
Four months of sentence remain
Counsel for both the defence and the Crown agreed McNeely did not intend to cause Ryan’s death and did not know his actions were likely to cause his death.
The pre-sentencing report states McNeely is of Métis descent and an intergenerational survivor of residential school, but he said he is unsure how that has affected him.
He said he witnessed and experienced violence and drug and alcohol abuse as a child, and he and his siblings did not always have food or clean clothes.
“It affected me a lot,” he said.
He was also impacted by the loss of several family members and friends.
McNeely said he began experimenting with alcohol when he was 11 years old, crack at 16, and cocaine at 18. He said he is addicted to those substances but does not believe treatment or counselling would be helpful.
McNeely has a lengthy criminal record with convictions for violent offences and failing to comply with court orders.
While at the North Slave Correctional Complex, McNeely was involved in two separate incidents that resulted in disciplinary reviews. In August 2022, he was found to have “engaged in activity that jeopardized the management, operation or security of the correctional centre” after being involved in a “complicated plan” to bring cannabis, tobacco and cocaine into the jail.
McNeely is working on obtaining his GED and said he hopes to work in carpentry or as a cook. He said he wants to be a “better person” for his children.
“I’m always in jail, my kids miss me all the time and I’m not there for them,” he said.
With credit for time served in pre-trial custody, McNeely has four months of his sentence remaining.