Some weeks before he was killed in late December 2017, Alexander Norwegian put his number in Sasha Cayen’s cell phone. It appeared in her contacts under the name “Buds.”
Cayen, who has admitted being addicted to crack cocaine at the time, then texted Norwegian to arrange drug purchases. The pair had known each other for a long time and both lived in Hay River’s small West Channel neighbourhood.
When Cayen texted Norwegian after 11:30pm on Boxing Day 2017, he agreed to meet her on the other side of town in an isolated area of the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
But Cayen didn’t show up, as promised, with vodka for Norwegian and some cash for crack. Instead, two men Norwegian knew arrived on a snowmobile.
Norwegian, 25, was found dead two days later in his badly damaged car in that isolated area of Sandy Creek Road.
“Can you tell us about getting crack cocaine from Alex Norwegian?” Crown prosecutor Duane Praught asked Cayen in NWT Supreme Court on Friday.
Cayen, 29, was testifying on day six of the first-degree murder jury trial of Levi Cayen, 24. He had pleaded guilty to robbery on the first day of the expected five-week prosecution.
Sasha had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Norwegian’s death. In January 2019, she was sentenced to 43 months behind bars.
Also in January 2019, Tyler Cayen, 36, was sentenced to two years less a day after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter in the death of Norwegian. He testified earlier last week.
Sasha told Praught she was having difficulty remembering some of the events of Boxing Day 2017.
“This was five years ago,” she said through tears. “I’m not going to remember everything step-by-step from that night, or any time frame, or anything.”
“I understand,” Praught replied.
The prosecutor provided the jury with a version of events that led to Norwegian’s demise. He was left beaten and exposed to the elements as the temperature dropped below -30C.
Sasha was at the house of James Thomas – her cousin and also someone from whom she bought crack cocaine. Tyler Cayen, another of her cousins, was present. The three drank vodka and smoked crack as the day ended.
Thomas had driven Sasha in his blue Dodge pickup truck to meet Norwegian to buy drugs in the Old Village area of the reserve. She had purchased a crack rock for $60.
Norwegian appeared “high … looked jittery,” Sasha recalled.
When they returned to the house, Sasha played cards with Tyler. The cocaine was gone in about 30 minutes.
Later that day, Norwegian texted Sasha, looking for help as his small, black four-door car was stuck in a snowbank.
The three went and pulled out the stuck car. For their efforts, Norwegian gave them a rock of crack and $10.
After they returned to Thomas’s house, the trio continued to party. Levi Cayen showed up, carrying a three-litre “Texas mickey” of vodka.
The four “drank and listened to music and sat around” until Levi and James went “for a Ski-Doo ride to jack Alex,” Sasha testified.
“What do you mean, ‘jack Alex?’” Praught asked.
“To take his drugs and money he had on him,” Sasha replied, explaining Norwegian had texted her asking for some alcohol.
“Somewhere in between all of that, somebody thought of jacking him … I don’t know. I was pretty wasted.”
“Jim [Thomas] asked how much drugs and money he had on him and I said, ‘I don’t know,’ and he was, like, ‘maybe I should go jack him.’
“He asked if anybody wanted to go with him and Tyler didn’t want to go with him because [Norwegian] was his cousin and … Levi went for a ride with him, I guess … I don’t remember.“
Sasha said Levi was hesitant at first, but agreed to go.
Sasha said Norwegian “wasn’t going to go out and drive around and grab himself a drink because he had a warrant out for his arrest.” She said he picked the location for them to meet.
Levi and James were gone for around 90 minutes to two hours. When they returned, Thomas was carrying a plastic bag and had blood on his clothes, Sasha recalled.
When Tyler was on the stand earlier last week, the CBC reported defence lawyer Alan Regel suggested that an injured Norwegian had been visited twice that night.
Regel suggested that after Tyler and Thomas could not find Norwegian’s alleged drug stash, they returned and Thomas beat him again. Tyler at first denied Regel’s alleged sequence of events, then later said he couldn’t remember.
Back on Boxing Day 2017, upon his return home, Thomas asked Tyler to start a fire to burn the bag and its contents — which included an electronic tablet — and some of his clothing.
Levi then “took off to make a phone call” to report a drunk driver to RCMP.
“Because he was left out there, Alex … they said he was beat up pretty badly,” Sasha said, noting Levi was going to use the pay phone at the Rooster convenience store in town.
Around the same time, Thomas and Tyler went to search for Norwegian’s drug stash at Lagoon Road, located on the outskirts of West Point. They returned empty-handed after “a couple of hours, maybe three hours,” Sasha said.
The group continued to socialize through the night.
The trial continues on Monday.