Michael Zemnicky’s life will never be the same after a clash one night on Prelude Lake with Daniel Hache, a Yellowknife court heard this week.
In an altercation after a night of drinking on June 20, 2017, Hache struck Zemnicky with a large campfire cooking utensil, cracking his skull and leaving the man with brain damage, the court heard on Thursday.
Zemnicky, a 38-year-old father of two, now lives with family in Ontario. He has a hole in his skull as he awaits surgery to place a titanium mesh over his exposed brain.
His speech is impaired, he has numbness to the right side of his body, ringing in his ears, and he suffers seizures that have damaged his heart, the court heard.
Hache, 23, was in court waiting to hear his sentence after pleading guilty to assault causing bodily harm. He had originally been charged with aggravated assault but agreed to the lesser charge after a preliminary hearing.
Zemnicky’s sister, Amber Hardy, flew to Yellowknife from her home in Lloydminster for Thursday’s sentencing hearing in Supreme Court.
“I was the first person he looked at upon waking from the coma,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.
“The fear, confusion, and desolation he felt was in his eyes and it wrenched me.
“He saw me, and I saw him, and we both knew life had changed forever.
“My brother, the pillar of protection … I miss my brother.”
Zemnicky has to wear a protective helmet so as not to aggravate his wound. Reading a statement from her brother, Hardy noted Zemnicky’s children are now embarrassed at the way their father’s speech is impaired. They have asked him not to go to their school as a result.
Hardy said her brother also fears he won’t receive proper medical care, as his doctors know he was the partial aggressor in the incident.
Struck with a pie iron
The court heard the violent incident happened after Hache, Zemnicky, and family members were on an island at Prelude Lake.
After having some drinks, Zemnicky went to bed. Hache stayed up with Zemnicky’s partner.
After midnight, Hache took a boat to pick up a woman near the Prelude Lake campsite. However, when Hache’s craft partially sunk, he called the victim’s partner to help him. It took some time for her to get to him, causing an argument back on the island.
Zemnicky awoke and confronted his partner, who was yelling. Hache, in turn, yelled at Zemnicky to stop being physical with her. Zemnicky then turned toward Hache.
Michael Zemnicky’s sister, Amber Hardy, outside court on Thursday. Hardy flew to Yellowknife from her home in Lloydminster, AB, for this weeks’ sentencing hearing. James O’Connor/Cabin Radio
Hache grabbed a heavy metal pie iron and struck Zemnicky in the head, partially in self-defence, the court heard.
Court records show Hache called Yellowknife RCMP for help. He spoke with an operator several times while trying to bandage Zemnicky’s head injury.
Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane said Hache “went above and beyond self-defence.”
“There will be no making whole of Mr Zemnicky through the criminal court process … the role of these courts is to find the appropriate sentence for Mr Hache,” he said.
Fane called for a sentence of 18 months in jail, with a restitution order of more than $7,800 to cover some expenses Zemnicky has faced.
Defence lawyer Thomas Boyd noted his client is a first-time offender.
He called for a conditional sentence, or house arrest, as Hache poses no threat to the public.
NWT Supreme Court Chief Justice Louise Charbonneau reserved her decision until July 30.