Chad Tyler Beck was convicted of second-degree murder on Tuesday afternoon for the killing of Cameron Sayine with an axe in Fort Resolution in the summer of 2018.
Beck had already admitted killing 27-year-old Sayine on Canada Day in 2018. He disputed little of the evidence presented during his trial in October 2020 and February 2021. Beck’s attempt to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, however, was rejected by the Crown.
The main issue in the case was Beck’s state of mind when he attacked Sayine, and the extent to which he intended to kill or cause serious harm.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte argued Beck should be convicted of the lesser offence due to his level of intoxication and because he was provoked, saying Sayine had bullied and assaulted his client.
The court heard Beck and Sayine had two encounters that June, including one where Beck said Sayine had thrown him to the ground and punched him. A few days later, Beck said, Sayine and another man entered his home. The second man assaulted him before his aunt intervened.
Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews argued Beck should be convicted of second-degree murder, saying Beck killed Sayine because Sayine was a “nuisance” to Beck and he could no longer tolerate him.
During the trial, Beck testified that on July 1, 2018, he was at his cousin Jason Larocque’s home drinking when Sayine showed up. Beck was unhappy to see Sayine but proceeded to drink with him.
While Beck and Sayine had been friends when they were younger, Beck said he did not like Sayine, who “turned the vibe down” and became “rowdy” when intoxicated.
Beck said Sayine assaulted him twice outside Larocque’s home that day, punching him and throwing him to the ground in an attack that left him with a black eye, a cut to his eyebrow, and a sore back.
Later, inside Larocque’s living room, Beck said Sayine and Larocque were arguing when Sayine backhanded him, chipping his tooth.
Beck ran out of the house with plans to call the police, but turned around out of concern that Sayine would assault his cousin and Larocque would be too intoxicated to defend himself.
Beck said he saw an axe outside and picked it up to scare Sayine.
When he rounded the corner, however, Beck thought Sayine was going to lunge at Larocque. Beck hit Sayine in the back of the head with the axe, knocking him to the ground, face-down. Beck continued to hit Sayine in the back with the axe before Larocque stopped him.
“I didn’t mean to kill him but I chose to hurt him so he couldn’t continue fighting us,” Beck told the court.
Beck then began dragging Sayine out of the house and after, slipping on the axe and becoming frustrated, struck Sayine with the axe again. In total, Beck struck Sayine five times in the head, neck, and torso.
Beck dragged Sayine 30 metres from the door of the house, out of sight, and threw the axe into the bushes. He tried to clean inside the house, but stopped after he realized it was making no difference.
When police arrived, they said they found Beck sitting on a swing. He put his hands up and lowered himself to the ground without instruction before he was arrested.
‘Drunken intent is still intent’
On Tuesday, NWT Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood said while this case involved a “difficult and traumatic situation,” she had to assess the evidence rationally and impartially.
She found that while Beck had been intoxicated when he attacked Sayine, he was not so intoxicated that he was unable to understand the consequences of his actions. She noted there was no evidence he had difficulty walking or that his motor skills were impaired.
“Drunken intent is still intent,” she said.
Smallwood rejected the defence’s argument that Beck had acted in “the heat of passion” caused by sudden provocation. She said Beck’s words and actions were “significant” evidence of his intent to kill Sayine.
The judge said there was no evidence Sayine had assaulted or would assault Larocque, despite Beck’s concern that this would take place.
“Sometimes an argument is an argument and nothing more,” she said.
Smallwood said Beck entered the house ”quickly and with purpose,” showed no hesitation in swinging the axe, did so “hard, forcefully, and purposefully” without tempering his swing, hit Sayine with the sharp blade, and did not miss with a single blow.
Smallwood said the idea that someone could “swing an axe in this fashion” without intending to kill or seriously harm someone, knowing it could kill them, was “simply not credible.”
“Chad Beck killed Cameron Sayine because he had had enough,” she said.
A date and location for Beck’s sentencing will be determined on Friday afternoon.