James George Thomas will not be eligible for parole from prison for 10 years for his part in the second-degree murder of Alex Norwegian in the Hay River area on Boxing Day 2017.
NWT Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar on Wednesday sentenced Thomas to life imprisonment plus 10 years’ prison time for robbery, to be served at the same time.
Thomas was found guilty in November of robbing Norwegian, 25, during a search for the Edmonton-based drug dealer’s crack cocaine stash. Ten years is the legal minimum period of parole ineligibility for second-degree murder, an offence for which life imprisonment is automatic.
Before reading his decision as family and friends of the victim and accused looked on, Mahar reiterated that his reasons for those sentences cannot be published under a ban that prevents such reporting 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.
Norwegian’s supporters, sitting through the third trial of people involved in his death, remained calm. Before being led away by sheriffs, Thomas was allowed to hug his family.
Thomas, 25 at the time of his arrest, was initially charged with first-degree murder and robbery. 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.
The trial of Thomas 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.