James George Thomas is guilty of the second-degree murder of Alex Norwegian in the Hay River area on Boxing Day 2017, a Supreme Court judge ruled on Tuesday.
Thomas was also found guilty of robbing Norwegian, 25, during a search for the Edmonton-based drug dealer’s crack cocaine stash, Justice Andrew Mahar said in reading his decision to a full courtroom.
The detail of the judge’s reasons for those verdicts cannot be reported under a publication ban that prevents such reporting in the period leading up to the trial of co-accused Levi Cayen, set to take place early next year. The ban is designed to ensure publication of details does not bias potential jurors for that trial.
Family and friends of Norwegian were tearful at the start of Tuesday’s hearing. Thomas arrived late as his escort from Yellowknife’s North Slave Correctional Complex had not been ordered in advance.
He waved to members of his family, sat on the other side of the courtroom, as he entered.
As Mahar announced Thomas was guilty of robbery, one of Norwegian’s supporters exclaimed, “Yes!”
Thomas, 27, was initially charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the 2017 death of Norwegian. His five-week trial by judge alone began on the morning of April 19.
Information that emerged during the earlier trials of Sasha Cayen and Tyler Cayen – who have already been sentenced in connection with Norwegian’s death – also cannot be republished in an effort to provide a fair trial for Cayen, who is presumed to be innocent.
Thomas’s trial included testimony from 20 witnesses, including some of the co-accused. All four co-accused are cousins who had been socializing on the night of December 26, 2017 at Thomas’s house.
Norwegian’s body was found along the Sandy Creek Road on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
Tyler Cayen was sentenced to two years less a day in January 2019 after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter.
Sasha Cayen was sentenced to three years and seven months in January 2019 after she pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Thomas’s sentencing hearing will be held at a later date, likely in Hay River. Lawyers will meet on Monday to schedule that hearing.