Warning: This report contains details of a murder with an axe, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
Chad Tyler Beck faces life in prison for the 2018 second-degree murder of Cameron Sayine. All that’s left to decide in NWT Supreme Court is when he is eligible for parole.
Crown prosecutor Blair McPherson told a Wednesday sentencing hearing Beck swung an axe “hard, forcefully, and purposely” to kill his cousin. McPherson said the act was “shocking and brutal.”
“There’s no other way to characterize it,” the prosecutor said. “Mr Beck used extreme violence to kill Cameron.
“He was violently and senselessly murdered by a man he had grown up with the community of Fort Resolution. Cameron did not see him coming. He was attacked from behind. He did not have a chance. The murder weapon was an axe.”
Under Canadian law, a second-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 to 25 years.
McPherson argued Beck, 30, should have no parole eligibility for at least 13 years following the murder of 27-year-old Sayine on Canada Day in 2018.
Three victim impact statements from Sayine’s family were read into the record by Crown prosecutor Jill Andrews.
Cameron’s sister, Stephanie Giroux, said she turned to drugs for a time to cope with her loss, but has since returned to school.
“Cameron wasn’t only my brother – he was my best friend, my rock, my protector, my everything,” read the statement.
Cameron would call her every day. On the day he died, he called her twice.
“He told me he loved me … and always would be there for me, no matter what happened. If anything ever happened to him, [he said to] to never give up in life. Keep pushing myself.”
Giroux stated Cameron will never see his son, who was born about two months after he was killed.
“I’m going to have to explain to my nephew, when he’s older, what his father went through that day,” read the statement. “I want justice for my brother, for his son, for my dad. I will forgive Chad but I will never forget what he did.”
Charged emotions in Fort Resolution
Cameron’s father, Raymond Giroux, said his heart was broken.
“He was my youngest. He’s the only one of my kids that stayed with me,” read the statement. “It’s been lonely since he died. I’ve been drinking since that day.”
Giroux attends church every Sunday. “I pray for my son every day,” his statement read.
Cameron’s grandfather, Robert Sayine, wrote that the crime had “impacted our whole family” and charged emotions in the community of Fort Resolution.
“This has caused a lot of bad feelings in Resolution. Something like this, an apology doesn’t mean anything,” read the statement of the 78-year-old, a former MLA. “This horrific crime … is not a small thing that happened. This is a horrible thing. To be chopped open with an axe – there’s nothing worse than that.
“I think about what happened every day. My wife wakes up crying at least a couple of times a week.”
The Elder said he worries about the future of the community.
“There are a lot of problems with drugs and alcohol coming into the community. People become addicted, and that’s what caused this whole thing. I worry that the younger generation will be influenced to do the same thing.”
Prosecutor McPherson said alcohol was being consumed by everyone on the day Cameron was murdered.
“But we cannot blame this on alcohol,” he said. “We would not characterize this as the tragedy of alcohol in a smaller community – it should not serve as an excuse.
“This was an axe murder where Mr Beck chose to go and pick up an axe from a wood pile. There’s nothing to suggest that he wasn’t in control of his bodily functions. He was walking and talking coherently, understanding what was happening around him.”
‘All this plays out in my head’
McPherson told the court Beck is Indigenous and the court must consider the “broad systemic and background factors affecting Indigenous people in Canada,” commonly referred to as Gladue factors.
Beck’s birth mother was Gwich’in and his father Caucasian. He was adopted at a very young age and spent much of his youth living with his grandparents.
A pre-sentence report stated Beck had a good upbringing, spending a lot of time on the land.
His grandmother was a residential school survivor who turned to alcohol later in life. Their home became a “party house,” said McPherson, noting Beck moved around a lot and never had steady employment.
Beck has shown cooperation and remorse throughout the proceedings and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, said McPherson.
Beck’s attempt to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, however, was rejected by the Crown, resulting in a judge-only trial.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte said Beck deserves the minimum 10-year parole ineligibility. He argued none of the many factors that could justify increasing the length of that ineligibility – such as abuse of power, a gang attack, or targeting of the victim – were involved in this case.
Harte said Beck felt he could not explain himself properly and might break down if asked to speak by the court, which is routine.
He asked his lawyer to read a statement, in which he said he didn’t want to kill his cousin and had only wanted to stop him fighting with their relative, Jason Larocque, whose home they were in.
“Every night that I have been in [jail] I have this on my mind. I can’t sleep because this is all playing out in my head,” read the statement. “I see this again and again, like a video that I can’t control. If I could do something to bring Cameron back – we could have been friends or working together.
“This never should have happened. I don’t know what I can say to Cameron’s family. I can’t bring him back for them. The family hears stories that make me sound like a demon. I really didn’t want to kill him.”
NWT Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood adjourned the hearing and said she would provide her decision on parole eligibility on Thursday afternoon.