A witness to the Canada Day 2018 killing of Cameron Sayine in Fort Resolution described the events of that day in detail inside a Yellowknife courtroom on Tuesday.
Jason Larocque had been drinking for more than a day. Passed out on his father’s couch in the hamlet that evening, he was roused by Sayine and saw his cousin, Chad Beck, with blood on his face.
Beck looked “passed out” at the time, Larocque told the court. Beck is now on trial for the murder of Sayine.
A short while later that evening, 30-year-old Beck stood and walked outside.
Warning: The remainder of this report contains details of an alleged murder, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
As Larocque and Sayine began to argue, Beck returned – brandishing an axe, Larocque said.
“He came around the corner and swung,” testified Larocque, 39.
“[Cameron] went down. He fell down in front of me. He swung and hit him, hit him, hit him.
“I got up right away and stopped Chad from hitting him again. I grabbed him, I grabbed the axe. I slapped him.
“[I said] to kill someone, that’s not the way we do things. What the f–––’s wrong with you?”
Larocque said Sayine, 27, made no sound except “a gasp of his breath, maybe, I dunno,” as his body fell to the floor of the house on the outskirts of the hamlet.
Beck is on trial before an NWT Supreme Court judge and no jury, facing a charge of second-degree murder.
As Larocque described the attack, several people in the public gallery left the room for a while.
Under direct examination by Crown prosecutor Blair MacPherson, Larocque said he had been drinking heavily and had trouble remembering all the details of what happened at his father’s house, where a group of friends had gathered to drink.
“I slowly backed away from [Beck] and walked out the door,” said Larocque, testifying via video from another area of the courthouse, a precaution requested by the Crown in cases where personal safety or intimidation could be a factor.
“I gotta get the cops, man,” Larocque recalled telling Beck. “I’m not going to get involved with a murder.”
Beck was silent, said Larocque, except to say something toward the dead man along the lines of: “You’re not going to mess with our family.”
Beck ‘was in a trance’
Under cross-examination by Beck’s lawyer, Peter Harte, Larocque admitted his daughter had been assaulted by Sayine, her boyfriend. He also acknowledged arguing loudly with Sayine about that assault.
Larocque said he had not seen the initial altercation between Sayine and Beck that left the latter with facial injuries. After leaving Beck at the house – he was last seen starting to drag Sayine’s body – Larocque testified he went to a camper parked in the yard and woke up a Hay River woman, who had been drinking with them and who had also passed out.
“I told her Chad murdered Cameron,” said Larocque, adding the pair started walking toward downtown Fort Resolution and used a cellphone to call Larocque’s parents.
James Larocque, Jason’s father, was driving with his wife a few miles away from the house when his cellphone rang.
“Dad, get home! Chad chopped Cameron with an axe. I think he’s dead,” his son said over the phone.
Sober for some time before that day, the older Larocque had let the younger folks stay on his property and drink. Arriving home at around 10pm, it was quickly apparent the party had ended in tragedy.
“Chad was coming out of the house … I noticed his hands are all covered in blood,” the 64-year old testified, also via video, noting he saw blood on the steps.
The father grabbed Beck, his nephew, by his upper arms and told him to sit on a porch swing.
“He didn’t resist a bit … he was in a trance,” the elder Larocque recalled.
Entering his house, he saw blood on the floor but couldn’t find Sayine.
Once it became apparent something grave had occurred, the senior Larocque left his property and drove downtown to look for RCMP with his eyewitness son and the woman.
They located police downtown by the arena and told them what happened.
More witnesses to appear on Wednesday
On Monday, the first day of a trial expected to conclude in February, Cpl Sam Munden said Beck was sitting on a swing as uniformed officers pulled up to the residence in a marked patrol car.
The officer discovered blood on a doorway leading into the kitchen, more blood on the floor inside, and more outside leading to deep grass.
He described finding a naked body with a gash on the forehead in tall grass some way from the house.
Beck, 30, was originally charged with first-degree murder. On Monday, he attempted to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter but that plea was rejected by the Crown.
The two main issues at trial are expected to be the effect of alcohol on Beck’s state of mind when he killed Sayine, and the defence’s ability to prove Beck was provoked.
On Wednesday, the Hay River woman who was at the home that evening will take to the stand, as will the dead man’s girlfriend.