“Daddy is sleeping forever.” That’s how Jeanette Kakfwi tried to explain to her two children why their dead father, Lloyd Edgi, would never be coming home again.
Edgi was killed by longtime friend Colten McNeely on September 3, 2017 in Fort Good Hope, leaving Kakfwi a single mother of two young children.
A sentencing hearing took place for 27-year-old McNeely in Yellowknife on Monday. He was found guilty at trial in January of manslaughter – not the initial charge of second-degree murder.
Tears flowed as members of Edgi’s family spoke about the impact his death had on their lives.
The Crown is seeking a sentence of seven to eight years, while the defence is arguing for between four and five years.
McNeely has accumulated 2.6 years of remand credit, so the defence’s sentence request would allow him to serve his sentence at Yellowknife’s North Slave Correctional Complex.
Edgi, 28 when he died, was described as a loving, caring father, a hard worker, and a good provider for his family.
Above all, words were spoken about how the children – a two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son – had to process the loss of their dad.
“My daughter cries and prays for her Daddy every day. They really want him to come back from Heaven and they ask when we can visit him. They ask when he’s coming home,” said Kakfwi, who had been Edgi’s common-law partner for eight years at the time of his death.
“It’s hard to explain to my baby, who is only five, that Daddy is never coming home. She asks how he died and who took him. I don’t know how to explain this to my five-year old.
“My son is completely broken. He does not know what to do or how to handle this. He was only five when this happened. He was so confused why his Daddy was in a coffin and not waking up.
“Our spirit as a family is broken.”
‘I want to wake from this nightmare’
Kakfwi said she does her best to raise her children but struggles with the trauma of losing her husband. She works when she can but bills pile up. She feels exhausted and defeated. She has lost any sense of security.
“There were so many good things we wanted to do in life. We had so many plans to get my career going, as I was going to school for four years,” she said.
“We wanted to get married. He wanted to start a business. He got his business licence in the months before he passed. We wanted to build a house. We wanted to give our kids everything. We wanted big things in life.
“I just want to wake up from this nightmare because I cannot do this alone. But I try my best to be there for my children every day.”
Edgi was described as a humble and kind-hearted man, always filled with good stories and jokes.
The couple had moved from Fort Good Hope when their son was one year old so Kakfwi could attend college in Yellowknife. They moved to Fort Smith in 2014 so she could get a degree in education. Their daughter came along a year after that.
Edgi would take on carpentry jobs to support the family. They enjoyed playing hockey and other sports together. Edgi would help take care of other children when he wasn’t working.
There were eight victim impact statements introduced at the hearing, with three being read by Crown prosecutor Blair McPherson.
They were from relatives who spoke of the trauma they have been through and the loss they feel. One admitted she had turned to alcohol to cope. Many have sought counselling.
Family in attendance
A group of family members flew from Fort Good Hope to Yellowknife for the sentencing hearing.
The court heard a story of Edgi’s favourite stool at a relative’s house not being used any longer. It sits empty with his name on it during family gatherings.
There were criticisms of how Edgi had been portrayed in news reports of the homicide and trial, and how McNeely’s background was presented by some news outlets.
At his judge-alone trial in the fall of 2019, McNeely testified he stabbed Edgi in self-defence after getting into a confrontation.
McNeely had sought out his good friend to smooth things over after two earlier fights – which left McNeely with a bloody nose – over an affair McNeely had with Edgi’s spouse a year earlier.
At trial, the court heard Edgi died from a 10-centimetre stab wound to the heart after being found covered in blood at approximately 4am.
The court had heard at trial that, prior to McNeely arming himself and venturing out to make amends with Edgi, he believed he had drunk up to 15 ounces of vodka and consumed cannabis. He had also given Edgi a mickey of vodka.
McNeely expresses remorse
In court on Monday, Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews said: “No words I say today and no amount of jail time could possibly equal what has been taken or replace what has been lost.”
She characterized McNeely’s actions as “excessive self-defence” in response to a comparatively minor assault at the hands of Edgi.
“Stabbing someone in the heart, even in the context of excessive self-defence, falls closer on the spectrum to murder than accident,” she said, noting there was evidence of nine stab wounds on Edgi’s body, one being fatal.
“Stabbing someone in the chest is almost always going to cause lethal injury. When it does not, it is pure luck.”
Andrews noted McNeely had a loving, caring environment growing up, but had started drinking to the point of blacking out each weekend.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte said the incident was out of character for his “otherwise quiet” client.
He called on Justice Andrew Mahar to impose a sentence that would allow McNeely to serve his sentence in a territorial jail in the North, as “it may not work out well” for him in a southern federal penitentiary.
He said McNeely has been improving his Grade 7 education and taking programs on fighting alcohol abuse and violence.
Harte said one of the conditions during a proposed three years’ probation after his sentence could be not to return to Fort Good Hope without permission.
“He hopes it might be possible to visit Fort Good Hope, but he doesn’t think that will happen any time soon,” said Harte.
When asked if he had anything to say, McNeely – sitting quietly in a grey dress shirt – unfolded a piece of paper and, reading from it, said he knows he won’t be able to return home.
He expressed remorse for his actions and apologized to Edgi’s family and the Sahtu community of some 500 people.
“I so, so wish none of this ever happened. I wish I could take Lloyd’s family’s pain away,” he said. “Alcohol and jealousy are so much a part of what puts my people in jail. I’m ashamed for what I have done.
“If putting me in jail could bring Lloyd back, I would gladly do all the time I got. I don’t think anything could fix what I have done.”
Mahar reserved his decision until Wednesday at 10am.