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Darnell Kakfwi sentenced for rape of woman in her home

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Warning: This report contains details of a sexual assault case, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.

A Yellowknife man with several violent convictions – including a 2003 manslaughter – was sentenced Wednesday to three years for raping a woman in her home.

Darnell Noel Kakfwi, 33, pleaded guilty to sexual assault on what was to be the first day of his trial, a day earlier.

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Charges of overcoming resistance and criminal harassment were dropped. 

NWT Chief Justice Louise Charbonneau agreed with the Crown’s sentence recommendation of three years, followed by two years' probation, though she said it was “absolute minimum” given Kakfwi's record of violent crime and the nature of the sexual assault.

On October 25, 2017, Kakfwi – an admitted alcoholic and drug addict – had been drinking at the woman's house, said Charbonneau, reading her decision. 

Kakfwi was allowed to stay over as he needed a place to sleep. The woman’s mother went upstairs to bed.

When the woman went to retire herself, Kakfwi grabbed her and forced her to a couch in the living room. 

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“There, he had forced sexual intercourse with her,” said Charbonneau. “At times during the assault he held her by the neck. At times he whispered, ‘Don’t scream or I’ll [expletive] kill you.’”

Shortly before 4am that same day, Kakfwi surrendered to RCMP at the Yellowknife detachment as he was wanted on an unrelated warrant. 

However, by then, the woman had called police to report the sexual assault and he was arrested for that as well.

'I will hate him forever'

In a recent victim impact statement, the woman – in her early twenties – said she has suffered greatly from the attack.

“It messed me up a lot. I don’t trust people. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar. I don’t want to go outside now. I don’t see my friends very often. I drink a lot because of this,” said Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane, reading the woman’s statement.

“I go to trauma treatment and counselling. I feel ugly, I’ve self-harmed. I feel broken. I cry every day, nearly every day. It scares me, crying all the time.

“I have forgiven him. I will hate him forever. I can’t keep holding on to the hate, I have to let it go. I’m trying to fix myself. I don’t ever want to see him again.”

The woman was attending Aurora College at the time she was attacked, but has since had trouble focusing on her studies.

Court heard Kakfwi – who spent much of his life in Fort Good Hope – grew up in a household where alcohol abuse and domestic violence were a regular occurrence.

He said his earliest childhood memory was waking up to a house full of blood and broken furniture, which he believed to be evidence of his mother being beaten.

“No child should have to grow up in circumstances such as that,” said Charbonneau, noting Kakfwi’s parents and grandparents attended residential schools.

“This is yet another example of how trauma and dysfunction can be passed on from generation to generation. This is a cycle that is hard to break, but it can be broken.”

In 2004, Kakfwi, then 19, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the December 2003 slaying of Jeffrey Kelly, a well-known carver in Fort Good Hope.

News reports from the time state Kakfwi admitted to stabbing Kelly through the heart – in front of Kelly’s young son – in an alcohol-fueled brawl, using a 12-inch serrated knife. Kakfwi had originally been charged with second-degree murder.

Kakfwi violated his parole twice before being released permanently.

In the subsequent years he went on to commit two assaults, three assaults causing bodily harm, and two assaults with a weapon. He was on probation at the time of the 2017 rape.

'You know you cannot drink'

Kakfwi has been in custody since October 25, 2017, so he had 936 days of pre-trial credit (624 days multiplied by a factor of 1.5) – or about two years and six months.

That means he will have six months left to serve for the sexual assault at the North Slave Correctional Complex.

When he is released, he will not be able to have any contact or communication with the victim or her mother. The mother is “guilt-stricken” knowing the attack occurred downstairs as she was upstairs sleeping, said Fane.

Kakfwi will also have a DNA sample on file with authorities and be on the national sex offenders registry for 10 years. He will take counselling as recommended by his probation services.

Kakfwi will be under a firearms ban for 10 years. He will also have to abstain from alcohol and non-prescription drugs for the first six months of the two-year probation.

“It is a virtual certainty that unless Mr Kakfwi is able to follow through with his plans to [abstain] from alcohol and drugs, he will be back before the courts,” said Charbonneau, noting she wasn’t imposing the order in hopes he will breach it and be back behind bars.

The judge said Kakfwi can contact his lawyer and have the order to abstain reduced – or extended – as he sees fit.

“You have been clean and sober for many, many months now, but the temptation will be strong, especially at first,” said Charbonneau, noting Kakfwi asked her earlier in the sentencing hearing for such an order to abstain. 

“You know you cannot drink. Bad things happen when you drink. So that is why I’ve included this order … to try to give you that motivation, that extra push. The idea is to help you.”

Kakfwi is a father of two young children and a stepfather to a teenager. He is the nephew of Stephen Kakfwi, the former NWT premier.