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Devon Larabie admits 2020 murder of Breanna Menacho

Breanna Menacho
Breanna Menacho's mother, Lisa, posted this photo of her daughter to Facebook in her memory.

Devon Larabie has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of 22-year-old Breanna Menacho more than three years ago.

Menacho’s family members lined the back of a Yellowknife courtroom on Tuesday morning with Larabie’s trial, which had been set to last for five weeks, due to begin.

Sobs could be heard as Larabie, 31, instead offered a guilty plea at the outset.

More: “Breanna Menacho’s life will not be unheard”

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Larabie admitted to killing Menacho at his Yellowknife apartment on the morning of May 6, 2020.

According to an agreed statement of facts read aloud in court, on the night of May 5 and the following morning, Larabie had been sitting beside Menacho on a couch in his living room when he suddenly attacked her with a hatchet, striking her head, neck and body.

Five other people were present in the apartment at the time. While Larabie told everyone to stay inside, three people fled.

Larabie’s motive for the attack is unknown.

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In the weeks leading up to the attack, he had been on an “alcohol and crack cocaine-fuelled binge,” according to the statement of facts.

Larabie left his apartment that morning and headed to another building, where he climbed to the second-floor balcony of a unit in which an acquaintance lived. He told that person he had injured Menacho and the acquaintance declined to let him inside.

Larabie then checked himself in to the psychiatric unit at Stanton Territorial Hospital. Twelve hours later, against the advice of a doctor, he checked himself out.

Larabie and two other people then made plans to dispose of evidence, but not before RCMP searched Larabie’s apartment, finding Menacho and the murder weapon.

Jordan Nande and Lisa Brule pleaded guilty in 2020 to being accessories after the fact to murder. They were both sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment and two years’ probation for helping Larabie to evade authorities.

Menacho was a young Indigenous woman whose family described as “a giving person” with a big heart.

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. People convicted of the charge must serve between 10 and 25 years before they are eligible for parole.

Both the Crown and defence – Larabie fired several lawyers in the intervening years before Tuesday’s proceedings – recommended he should serve 10 years before he becomes eligible for parole.

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On Tuesday, Larabie was represented by Michael Spratt, a criminal defence lawyer based in Ottawa and his fourth lawyer in the case.

In what Justice David Gates described as an “unusual but pressing” need, defence lawyer John Hale was also appointed as an amicus curiae or “friend of the court.” In that role, Hale was able to provide advice to the court but did not represent Larabie. In rare cases when lawyers are appointed by the court, it is often when accused are self-represented.

Defence and Crown lawyers are set to meet again on December 18 to set a date for Larabie’s sentencing.

Justice Gates said that hearing likely won’t take place until after February in order to accommodate everyone’s schedule, allow a pre-sentencing report to be prepared for Larabie, and for community members and Menacho’s family to submit victim impact statements.

Gates said the sentencing should also provide some explanation for why the case was resolved with a guilty plea and joint sentencing submission.

“Crimes affect communities in broad and significant ways and the community has a right to understand how the justice system operates,” he said.

“Public support for the administration of justice … demands nothing less.”